May is the month traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
We should look for special ways to honor her. One way is devotion to her under one of her titles.
As she told St. Faustina Kowalska, recorded in Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, “I am not only Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy.”
Devotion to Mary as Mother of Mercy continues the great connection with the feast of Divine Mercy, which often falls in May during the Easter season (this year it was April 15).
Robert Stackpole, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, explains four ways in which Mary is rightly called our Mother of Mercy.
First of all, through her Immaculate Conception, she is God’s created masterpiece of his mercy in the world. According to Stackpole, “Everything about Mary was fashioned by Divine Mercy for the work of Divine Mercy. No other creature, therefore, so completely manifests God’s mercy as does Mary Immaculate.”
Second, because God chose her to be the Mother of Jesus, “she literally brought Divine Mercy himself to birth in our world.”
Her title also connects to the cross. Father Michael Gaitley of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and director of the Association of Marian Helpers explains: “As John Paul II relates in his encyclical letter Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer), at the foot of the cross, Mary underwent a kind of ‘transformation.’ Her beautiful motherly love became even more intense as she was filled with a ‘burning charity’ toward all those for whom her Son died; and her spiritual motherhood thereby came to its ‘definitive maturity.’ There, at the foot of the cross, Mary is most fully our Mother of Mercy, because it is there that she is filled to overflowing with the merciful love that burst forth from the pierced side of her beloved Son.”
“Encourage everyone in the family to consecrate themselves to Mary as the straight pathway to the heart of her Son,” Stackpole suggests. “Entrusting ourselves to the loving heart of our spiritual Mother in heaven means letting her do all that she wants to do to nurture us in his grace. In this way, with Mary always watching over us by her prayers, we can find deeper peace of heart and greater strength to face life’s trials and tribulations on our journey together to heaven.”
One family that has done so is the Maroneys. Joan and Dave Maroney are the husband-wife directors of Mother of Mercy Messengers, a Divine Mercy apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
“Making that consecration is the key as a family,” says Joan, adding, “Devotion to the Mother of Mercy is devotion to the holy Rosary.”
When you consecrate yourself to the Blessed Mother, you are dedicating your life in her service, Joan explains. “She leads us and guides us into that way of merciful love, so you make her the head of your family. You emulate the mercy she extends to all of us. You try to be like her. That’s where you come to service to the family, your brothers and sisters, treating everybody with mercy as she does.”
Dave emphasizes the Rosary as a necessary part of one’s devotion to our Mother of Mercy. When their three children were all under age 10, the Maroneys gathered with other families to pray the Rosary.
“God blessed us in so many ways through that devotion,” he says.
The blessings weren’t always obvious at the time, but as the children became teens and young adults, “that’s when those blessings really came into play for our family,” he says. Now as young adults in their mid-20s, they remain very close with each other. Joan calls it “the fruit of our Mother of Mercy.”
Third, we also call Mary “Mother of Mercy” because she carried out a tremendous work of mercy by showing us how to be true disciples of Jesus Christ.
As Mother of Mercy, Mary taught St. Faustina the importance of three virtues. “I desire, my dearly beloved daughter, that you practice the three virtues that are dearest to me — and most pleasing to God. The first is humility: humility and once again humility; the second virtue, purity; the third virtue, love of God” (Diary, 1415).
As St. Faustina writes, “When the conversation ended, [Mary] pressed me to her Heart and disappeared.” Then Faustina relates that her heart “became so wonderfully attracted to these virtues,” as though they were “engraved” in her heart.
“That’s the secret!” says Father Gaitley. “Our Mother of Mercy doesn’t just teach us about the virtues through her word and example, but she even obtains for us the grace to live them, the grace to make us desire holiness, desire humility, desire purity and desire to be filled with the love of God. In her own hidden way, Mary moves our hearts and engraves her own virtues in us. We just need to turn to Mary and allow her to press us to her Heart.”
Humility is the foundation of this “because it means relating to God as he truly is and as we truly are,” explains Stackpole. This doesn’t mean despising yourself, but, rather, “recognizing the truth that everything good — from the gift of life itself to every natural and supernatural blessing — comes from God.”
“Mary is, therefore, the shining example of true Christian humility,” he continues, “for even when she was told that she was to be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God, she still referred to herself merely as ‘the handmaid of the Lord,’ and she gave all the glory to God for all the blessings that she had received (Luke 1:46-49).”
Joan Maroney finds humility necessary to service: “This virtue allows you to put your own will aside, understand there are others in the family, and consider everyone else’s needs for the greater good.”
She says the virtue of purity — of intentions, actions, in dress and words — helps keep families holy, too.
Stackpole points out that purity of heart doesn’t refer only to sexual purity, but also “is singleness of heart, having one primary allegiance, and staying focused on that: namely, seeking to follow Jesus Christ as his true disciple … all summed up in what Mary said to the stewards at the wedding in Cana: Just ‘do whatever he tells you’ (John 2:5).”
He says the best way to practice this virtue to love God “is to put your trust in him, for trusting him means acknowledging his infinite power and love and making a complete surrender to his will as the best ‘way forward’ in every situation.”
Fourth, Mary is Mother of Mercy because she constantly intercedes for us, caring for all of our needs.
“Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings,” John Paul II taught in Redemptoris Mater. “She puts herself ‘in the middle,’ that is to say: She acts as a mediatrix … in her position as mother. … Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary ‘intercedes’ for mankind.”
“It’s not complicated to have devotion to Mary as Mother of Mercy,” sums up Father Gaitley. “It’s as simple as the cry of a child for its mother as it experiences suffering and pain. Every one of us suffers, and every one of us has a Mother of Mercy who is more than eager to come to our aid whenever we cry out to her.”
Joseph Pronechen is the Register’s staff writer.