Devotion to Mary is an essential part of our Catholic faith. For Catholic children learning the Hail Mary is an important spiritual rite of passage. There are many traditions about the Blessed Virgin. She has revealed herself in numerous apparitions. Some, including those at Lourdes, at Fatima and Tepeyac, have been accepted by the Church as conforming to Catholic teaching. Others are under discernment.
Mary has been the subject of two ex-cathedra definitions of Catholic doctrine. The first, by Pope Pius IX in 1864, concerned Mary’s Immaculate Conception; the second by Pope Pius XII in 1950, involved her Assumption into heaven. These two events are now dogma. Beyond that, Mary’s role in the Redemption has been debated in councils and by theologians through the ages and still is today.
I like to think that her role is best described in the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2: 1-12). When the wedding steward reveals they have run out of wine, Mary mentions it to Jesus, who responds that his hour has not come. Nevertheless, she tells the steward, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus responds by turning water into wine.
This Gospel passage reveals two important things about Mary. First, her role is to point us toward Jesus, telling us to do whatever he says, to follow him and become disciples. Second, we see that her intercession with her son is powerful and that we may turn to her in prayerful petition.
December is an important Marian month that gives us the opportunity to honor our Blessed Mother in a special way. Early in the month we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8. Then, on Dec. 12, we commemorate her apparition to St. Juan Diego as a Mestizo woman as a reminder that Spaniards, Indians, and the new race emerging from their union – the Mestizo, the dignity of all human beings created in the image and likeness of God.
Let us pray that we have the courage to heed Mary’s call to become disciples of her son and to treat all of our brothers and sisters as fellow children of God.