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Monday, 27 January 2014

'Mary, Mother of God and mother of mercy, pray for us and for the faithful departed'

This post is taken from the writing of  Rev. James McNally, who in his book ‘Make Way for Mary’, explores the Gospels of the Sundays of the year, emphasising  the role of Mary in guiding us along the path to her divine Son. 

 Mary will walk to Confession with us.  (3rd Sunday after Epiphany)

    ‘When the Son of God came down upon this earth, He was sent by His eternal Father for a purpose. God’s friendship with man had been lost, and readjustment was necessary.  Man did not incur the penalty of abandonment, for God promised him a Redeemer.  In God’s favoring design the Redeemer appeared.  He came in the form of a Child, like any man.  But His Mother was a virgin.  That made Him different.  Had Jesus Christ been just a human child, the very fact that He was born of Mary would have made Him greater than all other offspring.  His Mother had been the confidante of God the Holy Spirit.
    For thirty years Christ lived a private life, in play, in work, in prayer.  Then rose the sun of just another day and, out from the tender influence of Mary, Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.  Magnetically He moved among men, and persuasively called twelve of them to follow Him.
    No more were they to spend their time in worldliness.  Their lives were dedicated now to Jesus and His teachings.  In time they would assume His work, and carry on when He would leave.  Sin had left its scar upon the brightness of creation, and they were the physicians who must heal that scar.  Friendship between God and man was severed in the lanes of Paradise; they were the ones who must regain that friendship.  Through three turbulent and thrilling years Christ trained them for the work which they would do, and then He gave them power – a power that could strike the core of heaven, and have God confirm their every act!  A power that could raise man from a level that means death, to a parapet so high that heaven is its consequence!  Yes, the twelve apostles could regain the friendship lost, and heal the scar, for Christ had breathed on them the Holy Spirit.  He gave them power yet unheard of, when He said, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
    In the Gospel we read of a leper whose leprosy was cleansed.  Leprosy is a loathsome disease, and is repellent.  But so is sin to God, to Mary and the saints.  We cannot stand the presence or the sight of leprosy, and so we isolate its cases.  But Jesus bears the sight of sin, and even frees us from it.  “Go, show thyself to the priest,” Jesus said to the leper, and Christ still says the same to us today who have contracted the malady of sin.
    Jesus is God and could forgive sin.  This He very definitely proved with a miracle, when He healed the man sick of the palsy.  The Jews, who admitted that God could forgive sin but did not accept Christ as God, were witnesses to this miracle.  Yet even then the Jews would not recognise His claim to divinity.
    There is a difference between conviction and conversion!  Now this power of forgiveness Christ conferred upon His apostles.  Else what other meaning to the words, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain they are retained”?  If Christ, when He used these words, did not mean what He said, then why say them?  If He did mean what He said, then to what purpose the power, if men could ignore it?

 The last General Absolution of the Munsters at the Rue du Bois  1915  (from the original painting by  Fortunino Matania)

"At this place (or site) on the evening of Saturday 8 May 1915
The 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Victor Rickard
Received from its chaplain the Reverend Father Gleeson
A final absolution
Before entering the battle of the Aubers heights

Where Colonel Rickard met his death with a great number of his men.
Let us remember them in our prayers"


The term  confession  has nearly always been a stumbling block to our friends who are not Catholics. To them it denotes distasteful, dire things.  It seems to them unnatural, this laying bare a soul unto a man.  We can appreciate their attitude.  Centuries of isolation from Saint Peter have taken their toll.
    To Peter and the other apostles was given the power to forgive sins or to retain them;  and when so many in Christendom determined to ignore Peter, they were forced also to ignore the sacrament of mercy.  Today the Sacrament of Penance has assumed immense, inimical proportions to those outside the body of the Church of Christ.  That which was disdainfully cast aside in the mad scramble to escape from Peter’s authority has now become a main obstacle in a return to Peter’s guidance.  We Catholics agree that confession is not the easiest task at times; but we do know with a vivid faith that annihilation of the guilt of sin is worth its price in mere humiliation .
    Is it really to a man that divulgence of our sins is made? Well, we Catholics know the answer.  Jesus, even in today’s Gospel, draws a definite distinction between the priest and other men.  “See thou tell no-one, but go show thyself to the priest.”  The priest was once himself a little boy, just like other little boys;  but along the way of life God touched the heart, and the heart of the boy was never the same any more.  The boy went on through years and grew to manhood;  and through those years he was apart from men,  living in the crucible of discipline and prayer, imbibing knowledge at the feet of present day apostles, learning how to love with all his heart a Lady from the realm of heaven.
    The Lady charmed him with her nearness and her beauty;  she whispered in his soul at chapel prayer; she greeted him each day at dawn’s awakening, and watched him hold her rosary in his hand at night; she walked with him through seminary corridors, and stayed with him for solace in the shelter of his room; she led him up to God each morning, and through that God made him fall all the more in love with her.  The Blessed Virgin told him how Christ loved the sinner, and how he must do the same;  told him never to be unkind to sinners, although from the pulpit he should condemn the sin.  The Virgin told him how very weak was human nature, and how even the cedars of Lebanon could fall;  and she reminded him to be gentle even as she was in the days when she had to mingle with a Thomas who would not believe, and a Judas who would betray.  The Virgin told him that he took the place of God, and that what was done on earth by him would be ratified in heaven.

'I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy'

That is why today we can take hope and courage. “Go, show yourself to the priest.”  There is nothing that he will not understand, for the Virgin Mary has told him everything already.  True, he may be tired, sometimes irritated, even at times somewhat harsh. But he will understand and will forgive. The Blessed Mother will see to that.  And, after all, forgiveness is the important thing.  Sometimes we may be at home, and quite disturbed.  It may be during the hours of our business day, and we are quite disturbed. It may be during play and innocent amusement, but we are still disturbed.  Disturbed because perhaps we are away from God, and somehow the fear of returning almost shuts our mind to reason!  We forget that Jesus is a God of mercy,  and that He will remain that God of mercy until the end of time. Mary knows the fear that can upset our soul.  She knows the perturbation that may shatter our relationship with Christ.  If confession is difficult, just ask the Virgin, and she will walk to the door of the confessional with us.’

Ack. ‘Make Way for Mary’ by Rev James McNally.
Published by Joseph Wagner, New York. 1950. (Imp. Francis Cardinal Spellman).   


'Mary, Mother of God and mother of mercy, pray for us and for the faithful departed'


Richard Collins said...

Absolutely brilliant Brian. Thank you so much for this post.

umblepie said...

Thanks for your comment Richard. This excellent book is on loan from Papa Stronsay library, courtesy of Fr Michael Mary FSSR. It can be found on the Alibri, Abe Books, and Amazon sites, prices vary. Best wishes. Brian.