Mary has a very special place in our Church because she is the Mother of God and our mother, based on what Jesus told St. John the Apostle - and all of us- in His last moments on the Cross: “Behold your mother.” Mary is a lot like us, with one big difference: She was conceived without the original sin we all inherited from Adam and Eve. This is called the Immaculate Conception— which is especially an important for us in the United States because Mary is our nation’s patroness under this title.
We believe that Mary remains so close to Jesus that she can help us as an intercessor between us and God. Mary also is a model for us as Jesus’ first disciple, or follower. She points the way to God for all those who do not understand or believe in Him. She has done that from the day the Angel Gabriel came to tell her, “The Lord is with you.” She did what God asked of her: to bear the Son of God and to live her whole life in support of her Son, even up to His death on the Cross.
She goes by many names: the Blessed Mother, Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, Madonna, Star of the Sea and many more.
In this week's Camp Catholic, we explore some of the traditions that have developed through the years to deepen our relationship with the Blessed Mother, who leads us to her son, Jesus, and shows us how to help others also find their way.
How and why do we honor Mary?
The veneration of Mary by the Catholic Church is sometimes confused by others as "worship," but Catholics worship God alone. We honor Our Lady as the greatest of all saints who showed her exceptional faith in saying "yes" to becoming the mother of God. We pray to her and ask her to intercede for us.
Throughout the year we celebrate various feast days that recall special events, saints or teachings concerning God. Mary is honored on many of these days. Below are eight of the most popular feast days, many of which celebrate the Blessed Mother's various roles in the life of Jesus. In addition, all of May has long been considered the Month of Mary and October is the Month of the Rosary.
May Crowning is a celebration to honor the Queenship of Mary. Children of a parish process while singing songs about Mary, then a selected child or children place a crown of flowers upon a statue of Our Lady. This devotion celebrates the Queenship of Mary feast day, which was once celebrated in May, but has since been moved, causing many to observe this tradition on this feast day on August 22.
See the infographic below to read about a few popular feast days that celebrate Mary.
Click the image to download a larger version.
Throughout history people have planted gardens to honor Mary with plants and flowers that help reflect on her life and holiness. The University of Dayton eCommons offers guides that span the last century with hundreds of plants, trees, and flowers and their Marian names. Click here to read more.
Why do we pray the rosary?
The rosary prayer has become one of the most popular and recognizable Catholic devotions, but why do we do it? The rosary consists of 15 decades of Hail Mary prayers, each introduced by the Lord's Prayer and concluded with the doxology or prayer of glory and praise to God - most often the Glory Be. Each decade is accompanied by a meditation on some aspect of the life of Jesus or Mary, called a mystery. These mysteries are divided into four categories: the Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous and Glorious focusing on the Incarnation, Passion, light and glorification of Christ respectively. In order to more easily remember the prayers, they are counted on a string of beads.
For Catholics, the rosary is a wonderful spiritual tool. Although rosary beads may look like an ordinary string of beads, no matter how plain or elegant, it should always be treated with respect for the prayers it is used to pray. Its name comes from the Latin word for “rose garden." Since the rose is one of the symbols of the Blessed Virgin, praying the rosary is said to be like offering a spiritual bouquet of roses to her.
Nobody knows exactly how the rosary was created. For centuries Christian monks as well as Buddhists, Muslims and other non-Christians counted repeated prayers with beads, knots or stones. Some relate the number of beads to the 150 psalms in the Old Testament.
A famous legend describes how Mary handed the first rosary to St. Dominic almost 800 years ago and told him that it was a way to call upon her for help.
Join us in praying the rosary using the digital prayer beads below. Click the image, then hover your cursor over the number one for the first prayer. Follow the numbers around the beads and say each prayer.
The rosary above shows the Joyful Mysteries. All four groups of five mysteries are listed below. Click the image to see a larger version.
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”
by Joseph Stoverink of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. From the ancient reign of King David to the present day, Jerusalem lives in the hearts and minds of faithful Jews. It is the seat of power of their kings and the location of their biggest festivals. It is where families reunite and old friends meet again. Jesus is on his way.
As followers of Christ, for us it is a sign of the heavenly kingdom where Christ reigns for the rest of eternity. In the kingdom of heaven we will feast and recline at table. We will be reunited with family and old friends. We will sing in chorus with the angels and saints.
How do we enter this kingdom? In the Gospel someone asked, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” – a question which may be on many of our minds. Lord will I be saved? Elsewhere he responds, “If you wish to enter, take up your cross and follow me” or “Unless you give up everything you have, you cannot be my disciples.” Here, he says “Strive to enter, for many will not be strong enough.”
Strive. There is no set formula except love. The greatest commandment is to love God and your neighbor as yourself. Strive. Jesus knows we are not strong on our own. He warns that no one has an exclusive right to the kingdom by race or ethnicity, by wealth or success or any other means. Only striving in love. Jesus Christ is our strength, the Holy Spirit is our advocate, God the Father holds us in his mercy.
When I was in college at Truman State University, our chaplain was a great inspiration to me. If there was one thing he understood well, it was that he was helpless but for the love of God. Years before, he had become an alcoholic and had to step down for a time from ministry as a priest. He learned the mercy of God in his recovery program with friends who helped him set his life in order. Even as he still fell impatient or angry or let down, he held to his hope in Jesus. He frequently reminded us to see the image of God when we looked at ourselves and to have mercy on one another.
Fr. Bill, our chaplain, passed away a year ago now after his health declined. He was 73. He never gave up his smile or encouraging others. He was a man who strived. Let us imitate those who have strived before us and so meet again in the heavenly Jerusalem
Photo by Labadie Communications
How do you honor Mary?
As we learned this week, there are many devotions and feast days to help us honor Mary. How do you honor Mary? Share a photo or explanation on social media with the hashtag #CampCatholic, or send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We may share your response on our social media.