Getting to know Mary, Our Mother

Karna Lozoya

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: Radical living and my friend Shelly

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I saw my friend Shelly the other day, for the first time in 28 years.

Back in the day, she was Shelly Pennefather, basketball phenomenon. She led Denver’s Bishop Machebeuf High School’s women’s basketball team to three undefeated seasons, a 70-0 record. In her senior year, her family moved to Utica, New York, where she led the Notre Dame High School team to a 26-0 season, giving her a no loss record for her entire high school career. She remains Villanova University’s all-time scorer — men’s and women’s — with a career total of 2408 points.  She also holds the women’s rebound record, at 1171. She is a three-time Big East Player of the Year, the first All-American out of the Big East, the 1987 National Player of the Year, and a winner of the prestigious Wade Trophy. She’s been inducted into the Philadelphia Women’s Big Five Hall of Fame, and Villanova has retired her jersey. After college, she played professional women’s basketball in Japan. She was making more money than anybody I knew.

She doesn’t go by Shelly anymore. These days, she is Sister Rose Marie of the Queen of Angels. She lives in the Poor Clares Monastery in Alexandria, Virginia. She joined their community in 1991 and took her final vows in 1997. They are cloistered, which means that they don’t leave the monastery, except for medical emergencies. Her only contact with the outside world is through letters, and very limited visits with family and friends. She’s never used the internet, doesn’t know what Facebook is, and when she saw a visitor answer a cell phone, she asked “What is that?”

Why? Why on God’s earth would a basketball star of this magnitude just walk away from the game and the fame, or go from being one of the world’s highest paid women’s basketball players to taking a vow of perpetual poverty? Why would an attractive, funny, vivacious 25-year-old woman renounce marriage and family to lock herself up in a monastery? Why would a loving daughter and sister embrace a religious discipline wherein she could only see her family — through a screen —a few times a year, and hug them only once every 25 years? Why would anybody voluntarily live a life in which they could own nothing, sleep no more than four hours at a time (on a straw mat), eat no more than one full meal a day, and use telephones, TV, radio, internet and newspapers — well, never?

It all boils down to this: We’re all gonna die. And when we do, all of the money and the prestige and the accomplishments and the basketball awards are going to fall away. All that will be left is us and God. If we play our cards right, we will spend eternity beholding his face and praising him. And, as St. Augustine says, that is where our truest happiness lies — in this life as well as in the next: “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and will not rest until they rest in Thee.”

Cloistered sisters like the Poor Clares make the radical choice to live that way now — to begin their eternal life here on earth. As religious sisters, they are brides of Christ, and they focus their lives entirely on their bridegroom, without the distractions of all the stuff that’s going to fall away after death anyway. They spend their lives primarily in prayer — praying for you and for me and for this entire mixed up world and in deepening their own relationship with Christ.

This, it goes without saying, is a radical way to live. It is not for everyone, or even for most people. It is a free choice on the part of the sisters. But they do not take the initiative. God himself is the initiator. He calls them to this life, and they freely respond. Sister Rose Marie herself told her coach that this was not the life she would have chosen for herself, but it was very clear to her that it was the life God was calling her to.

I finally got to see Sister Rose Marie last weekend, as she celebrated the 25th anniversary of her solemn vows. I had the privilege of witnessing the once-every-25-year-hugs she gave her family. I spoke to her briefly, from behind the screen. She was always a cheerful person. But I saw a joy and a radiance in her that day that I have rarely seen ever, in anyone. It was beautiful.

The great gift these sisters give to us, aside from their prayers, is that they remind us that this life, and all its pleasures and distractions, will not last forever. And their dedication and their joy give us a small glimpse into the joy that is in store for us, if we can only imitate in some small way their singular focus on their Bridegroom.

Pray for them. And pray for the grace to do what they do — to rise above the distractions of this world and look toward the life that never ends.