National Catholic Register


Our Lady of Hope

BY The Editors

February 10-16, 2008 Issue | Posted 2/5/08 at 2:09 PM


The year 2008 is turning out to be a year of the unexpected. From the mundane to the serious, the typical has given way to the extraordinary. In the entertainment world, the normally dull Super Bowl game for once outshined the commercials that accompany it. In politics, the primary season has been heated where usually it is quiet and straightforward. Terrorism and war have become constant worries, and the economy has been on a sharper roller-coaster ride than usual, veering toward and then away from recession and then back again.

This level of uncertainty can cause a great deal of anxiety. Are we safe? What will happen with our mortgages? Is a housing bubble going to burst like the Internet bubble of the 1990s? Are we headed for dark times of economic confusion and increased unemployment?

What will the next presidential election bring? A lot of excitement surrounds candidates of one party who are promising “change” — but they are also promising uncompromising opposition to the right to life. There is a lot of excitement about taxpayer-funded health care — but we can expect that to mean an attempt to fund abortions federally. Meanwhile, the other party seems to have become more driven by secularists than ever before, with pro-lifers shoved a little bit closer to the sidelines.

A lot of commentators are talking about how a major shift is happening in America. Will the old rules still apply? What will happen to issues that are most important to Catholics?

Whatever the future brings, Catholics can be sure of two things: It will be nothing new, and we will have all the graces we need not just to face it but to transform the events of our day into the ongoing story of how the Church is changing the world.

We were reminded of this while reading this edition’s front-page story about the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes. Those apparitions are a very old event that should, by all rights, feel like a part of the Church’s past.

But as the quoted sources point out, Lourdes is very much a reality of the 21st century for the pilgrims who go there, and the doctors who observe the miracles — both physical and emotional — that they experience there to this day.

Pope Benedict XVI explains why at the end of his last encyclical, Spe Salvi, on hope. He calls Mary the greatest light of hope in history and our greatest hope today.

“With a hymn composed in the eighth or ninth century, thus for more than 1,000 years, the Church has greeted Mary, the Mother of God, as ‘Star of the Sea’, Ave Maris stella,” he wrote.

“Human life is a journey. Toward what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route,” he continued. “Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by — people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way . Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her Yes, she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us.”

He ends the encyclical with a plea to Mary:

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!”

His words remind us of the way Pope John Paul II also pointed to Mary as a significant source of hope for the Church.

In his apostolic letter naming the year of the Rosary — a year we that closed five years ago — John Paul spoke about the unique problems facing us and offered an answer to them: the Rosary.

“A number of historical circumstances also make a revival of the Rosary quite timely,” he wrote. “First of all, the need to implore from God the gift of peace. The Rosary has many times been proposed by my predecessors and myself as a prayer for peace. At the start of a millennium, that began with the terrifying attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a millennium that witnesses every day innumerous parts of the world fresh scenes of bloodshed and violence, to rediscover the Rosary means to immerse oneself in contemplation of the mystery of Christ who ‘is our peace.’”

He also wrote about an issue that is very much a part of the election now: “A similar need for commitment and prayer arises in relation to another critical contemporary issue,” wrote John Paul, “the family, the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for the future of this fundamental and indispensable institution and, with it, for the future of society as a whole. The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of a broader pastoral ministry to the family, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this crisis typical of our age.”

He pointed out that events like Lourdes can give us great hope in our day.

“I would mention in particular, on account of their great influence on the lives of Christians and the authoritative recognition they have received from the Church, the apparitions of Lourdes and of Fatima, these shrines continue to be visited by great numbers of pilgrims seeking comfort and hope,” he said.

In each, he reminded us, the message was the same: pray the Rosary. If the tumultuous times we face in America today make us anxious, we can take up the call Pope John Paul II made, and that Pope Benedict XVI has modeled so well: Pray the Rosary daily, and promote it in our parishes and in our families.

There’s no better way to unite ourselves with the prayers of Mary, Star of the Sea, Mother of Hope.

Why worry? She reminds us who’s in charge.