It’s not for nothing that Mother’s Day is a May event, for May is the very Month of Mary. There are Mary statues to be crowned, Mary gardens to tend, and Marian prayers to send up seeking the Blessed Mother’s intercession under a multitude of titles.
With that last thought in mind, the Register put out the call to some Catholics familiar to its readers. We wanted to know: What is your favorite title for Mary, and why? Here’s what we heard back.
Bishop Robert Baker of the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., co-founder of Our Lady of Hope Farm (Communita Cenacolo America) in St. Augustine, Fla., has two favorites. “The first is Our Lady of Hope,” he says. Not only did Bishop Baker compose a “Litany of Our Lady of Hope” for Prayers for Prisoners (OSV, 2002), but for a year he led others praying a novena to her for help in establishing the farm offering hope and help (see “Drug Rehab Community to Add Third House,” March 9).
“As a spinoff from that is a devotion we established in the Diocese of Charleston — Our Lady of Joyful Hope,” says Bishop Baker, its former ordinary, crediting Father Stan Smolenski for helping develop it. “There’s no history of that devotion in the Church. We came up with an icon created for this devotion of Our Lady holding both a rosary and Christ her son in terms of the Eucharist. This was inspired by Pope John Paul II’s strong emphasis on the Eucharist and his Year of the Rosary.” Before leaving the Charleston Diocese Bishop Baker established and dedicated the Shrine of Our Lady of Joyful Hope in Kingstree, S.C. (OurLadyofSouthCarolina.net).
Mary Beth Bonaccci, chastity speaker and founder of Real Love Inc. (online at reallove.net), remembers during May everyone praying the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary after the family’s Rosary. “Reflecting on it as I’ve grown up,” she says, “the title I love is Cause of Our Joy. It’s really not something we normally think of when we think of Mary. We may picture her as quite demure, wearing a robe, looking down. But she is the cause of our joy. She brought us the Savior. She advocates for us to him. And she loves us like a mother. That’s a pretty good cause of joy for me.”
Rosalind Moss, apologist for Catholic Answers and co-host of EWTN’s “Household of Faith,” chooses Mother of Israel’s Hope, a title she fashioned when founding her new religious order. She explains, “Who is ‘Israel’s Hope’ but he who is the hope of the whole world? Jeremiah cried: ‘O Hope of Israel, Its Savior in time of distress.”
Moss also looks to Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Lourdes, who “utterly transformed the heart of this previously anti-Catholic evangelical Protestant and drew me irresistibly to that Lady, that Jewish Lady, through whom God sent his Son to redeem the world — and me.”
Marians of the Immaculate Conception Father Anthony Gramlich, rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., favors the Immaculate Conception “because it’s pro-life. Someone can’t say they’re a Catholic and at the same time say they don’t believe life begins at conception because it would be contradictory. It would deny the existence of Mary’s soul at the moment of her conception — and deny Church dogma.”
Father Andrew Apostoli of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, an EWTN series host and the vice-postulator for the canonization cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, says he always invoked Our Lady as the Immaculate Heart of Mary. “More recently,” he adds, “I came across the private revelation to a great mystic and victim soul named Bertha Petit. Jesus told her, ‘My mother has two qualities to her heart — immaculate, which is what I gave her, and sorrowful, what my mother did for me in willingly sharing all my sufferings and sorrows. I would like her to be invoked as the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.’”
Christopher West, research fellow and faculty member of the Theology of the Body Institute near Philadelphia says, “My favorite title of the Blessed Mother is what Jesus called her: ‘Woman.’ There is a rich theological meaning behind this. Mary is the woman of Genesis 3:16. Through her ‘Yes’ the knot of Eve’s ‘No’ is untied. ... Just as the first Adam called the bride ‘Woman,’ so too from the Cross and at Cana the New Adam calls the bride ‘Woman.’ When Jesus calls her ‘Woman,’ it speaks to the bridal dimension of her mystery.”
Colleen Carroll Campbell, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, EWTN host, and former White House speechwriter, says the Virgin of Guadalupe caught her attention as a Catholic schoolgirl in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she “saw her warm and welcoming image everywhere: in homes and shops, in restaurants and churches, on medals and rosaries and rear-view mirrors.” Her connection to Our Lady of Guadalupe later intensified at her chapel in Washington, D.C.’s Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
“The Blessed Mother is a powerful intercessor under each of her titles,” she explains, “but I believe she is particularly powerful under this title when petitioned for the defense of innocent human life and the transformation of culture for Christ — two causes in which she has helped Christians prevail on our continent for the better part of five centuries.”
Danielle Bean, mother of eight, author and senior editor of Faith & Family magazine, loves Our Lady of La Leche. “It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that Mary and Jesus, in their perfection, are somewhat inaccessible to the rest of us,” she says. “Our Lady of La Leche reminds us that they were human. Mary nursed baby Jesus and cuddled him, just like all mothers do with their babies. ... I have always loved having Our Lady of La Leche to call on, not only during nursing woes, but in all the trials of motherhood. Many people also turn to Our Lady of Leche to intercede in asking for another child or for healing after a miscarriage. Our Lady of La Leche is a special gift to Catholic moms.”
Sister of Life Mary Elizabeth, director of the Family Life/Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York, chooses Morning Star. “It’s very hope-filled,” she says. “While we’re on our earthly pilgrimage our days are mixed with joys and sorrows. … The title of ‘Morning Star’ always gives us a sure hope that there will be a definitive new day in which there is no end. In times of suffering and darkness in our lives, the hopeful light of the Morning Star rises in our heart to comfort us and guide us.”
“I love Star of the Sea,” says Matthew Pinto, author and president of Ascension Press. “On the natural level, whenever I’m at an oceanside resort that has a Catholic church named Star of the Sea, it has brought great comfort to my heart, reminding me Mary can bring peace to the storms of our life through her intercession. … When I hear any reference to ‘Star,’ whether Morning Star or Star of the Sea, I’m reminded she is the one who leads us most expediently and directly to the Heart of Jesus.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.