Getting to know Mary, Our Mother

Karna Swanson

Leading up to the Oct. 13 consecration of the Archdiocese of Denver to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the archdiocese will release a series of five videos called Marian Moments, that seek to help the faithful grow closer to Mary by learning more about her virtues, and imitating those virtues in daily life.

The videos will be accompanied by suggested readings from Scripture and Tradition, and a classic Marian prayer to memorize.

In English, the videos feature Father Ryan O’Neill, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Denver.

In Spanish, the videos feature Bishop Jorge Rodriguez, auxiliary bishop of Denver, Msgr. de los Santos, pastor of Our Lady Mother of Church in Commerce City, Father Benito Hernandez, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Father Mauricio Bermudez, parochial vicar at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Aurora, and Father Mario Ramirez, parochial vicar of Ascension Parish in Denver.

Below are the dates the preparation material will be released with a brief description of the theme of that day.

The simplicity of Mary
September 21

Mary lived a quiet life in Nazareth with Joseph and Jesus, doing God’s will in her daily duties as a wife and mother. She is blessed among all women, yet in her life she was mostly quiet and hidden.

Scripture: Luke 1:39-56 (The Visitation)
Prayer: The Magnificat
Quote: “Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in him.” -Saint Bede the Venerable

Marian Moment #1: The Simplicity of Mary

Abandonment to the will of God
September 26

This is a quality best portrayed in the Annunciation, where Mary completely accepts God’s will for her life and whatever it meant for her. When she said, “Yes,” she became the vessel of the Savior of the world.

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38 (The Annunciation)
Prayer: The Angelus
Quote: “You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.” -Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Marian Moment #2: Abandonment to the will of God

Mary’s love for the Cross
September 28

At the Presentation, Simeon told her that a sword would pierce her heart also. When Jesus’ side was pierced, that act pierced her heart as she watched. Mary accompanied Jesus in his life, and in his death.

Scripture: Luke 2: 22-38 (The Presentation)
Prayer: Hail, Holy Queen
Quote: “The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.” -Saint Sophronius

Marian Moment #3: Mary’s love for the Cross

Mary’s love for souls
October 3
Mary loved souls and for that reason she is called “Queen of the Apostles.” Jesus gave her to us as Our Mother. Mary consented to Jesus’ death on the Cross because she loved us so much and knew his plan of salvation for us.

Scripture: John 19: 26-27
Prayer: Memorare
Quote: “With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you shall not be deceived; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection, you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.” -Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Marian Moment #4: Mary’s love for souls

The Heart of Mary
October 5

The Immaculate Heart of Mary is overflowing with life and grace, and it is tender, inviting and beautiful. We should always go to Jesus through Mary, because this is the way Jesus ordained it.

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20 (Nativity of Jesus)
Prayer: Rosary
Quote: “God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Savior of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.” -Saint Anselm

Marian Moment #5: The heart of Mary

COMING UP: 500 years later, who was Luther?

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Hero, villain, heretic, saint, reformer, corrupter, man of integrity, bombastic glutton. Which image of Luther should we believe? Because Luther primarily sought not to reform abuses in the Church but to reform the Church’s beliefs, Catholics cannot recognize him as a true reformer or a holy man. Nonetheless, it is widely agreed that Luther played a major role in shaping the modern world. With the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant movement he initiated approaching on October 31st, we have been given a number of new books to assess his legacy.

Paul Hacker, Luther’s Faith: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion, preface by Pope Benedict XVI (Emmaus, 2017).

Hacker’s book provides an in-depth, theological analysis of the issue that stands at the heart of the Reformation: Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone. Pope Benedict’s preface tells us that the Reformation dispute fundamentally concerned Luther’s “turning away from the center of the Gospel” (xxii). Emmaus released a new edition of Hacker’s book for the anniversary this year. It was published originally in 1970 (in English translation), the fruit of Hacker’s own intense study of Luther’s teaching on faith that led him into the Catholic Church from German Lutheranism.

Catholics agree with Protestants that salvation comes only through faith. The key issue of dispute, which Hacker reveals, is Luther’s subjective emphasis of absolute, personal certainty, which cannot be undermined even by serious sin. Hacker describes Luther’s faith as reflexive, that is turned back on oneself, by emphasizing subjective experience and personal surety more than anything else. He describes how Luther differs from the Catholic position: “Faith is the way to, or the perquisite of, salvation, but Luther makes it coincide with salvation itself. This becomes possible because he has first identified salvation with the consciousness of being saved or the certitude of salvation, and then he equates this consciousness with faith” (71). Hacker shows us how this view of faith negated the Church’s authority, the sacraments, and even the need to love God.

Brad Gregory, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape Our World (HarperOne, 2017).

For those looking for a more general and accessible book, Brad Gregory gives us a broader narrative of how Luther’s troubled conscience exploded into the crisis that tore Christendom in two. The first section looks at Luther’s own story, tracing step by step his conflict with Church authority. The second section explains how Luther’s teaching spawned a multitude of new sects and divisions, all interpreting the Bible in their own fashion. Greggory explains: “What the early Reformation shows so clearly is that scripture and the Spirt can be interpreted and applied in radically divergent ways. Once the papacy and the Catholic Church are thrown off, there are no shared authorities to adjudicate disagreements” (137). The final section looks at how the Reformation set the tone for the development of a secular culture. Though not intending these consequences, Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformers “led indirectly to a profound diminishing of Christianity’s public influence in Western societies. The religious disagreements and conflicts that followed the Reformation set the stage for religion’s eventual separation from the rest of life” (2).

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking, 2017).

Metaxas, who wrote a monumental biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, provides us with a different perspective on Luther. His book seems poised to capture the largest audience for the anniversary this year. While I can’t agree with his view of Luther as a hero of faith, I can appreciate his presentation of a more sympathetic and thorough look at a man who has inspired many Protestant Christians. It is helpful to recognize why Luther is such an important figure for so many people. This book definitely provides many more details on the life of Luther (with over 450 pages). However, I would exercise caution, because it unfortunately also contains many gross misrepresentations of the state of the Church at the time of the Reformation.

For instance, even though Metaxas shows us many ways that Luther encountered the Bible in his early life, he still claims that the Bible and Church had no connection in the early 1500s and that “the study of the Bible per se was simply unheard of” (52). Luther himself was a theology professor and throughout the Middle Ages the Bible was the primary text for teaching theology. Brad Gregory makes clear in his book on Luther that there were even “twenty-two editions of the complete vernacular Bible . . . published in German . . . by 1518” (29). Metaxas presents a false picture of Catholics as ignorant, afraid to pray to Christ, and thinking they must earn their salvation through works. Good historical research could easily dispel these myths, such as the books of Eamon Duffy, but we see Protestants continue to project Luther’s own scruples (hating God and spending six hours in Confession, 47) onto the Church of his time.

Jerome K. Williams, True Reformers: Saints of the Catholic Reformation (Augustine Institute, 2017).

What could have Luther been if he had chosen faithful reform? The answer is a saint. There is no doubt that the Church was in need of serious reform in the 1500s. We have a number of great saints who show us that fidelity to God does not contradict fidelity to His Church. They stood against corruption and initiated deep and abiding reform. The Augustine Institute has release both a book and video series on true reformers, who boldly spoke out against abuses and led to a deeper realization of the truth found in the Bible, read in harmony with the Church. These figures—Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, Ignatius of Loyola, and Charles Borromeo, for instance—continue to inspire us to take up the task of genuine reform today.