Witness: Mary – example and model of perseverance
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.
Our Saviour and our Redeemer, our perpetual help is Jesus Christ. He is always the same, yesterday, today and for ever. All we do is through Christ, with Christ and in Christ. Nothing without Christ and nothing against him. Our Mother, Mary from Nazareth is shown in the Gospel as a special, central figure. She is not any person, but central. But be attentive, in the centre of the Gospel is Jesus Christ. Today we want to learn the virtue of perseverance from Our Mother.
St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort wrote in his “True Devotion to Mary” (number 23): “God the Father made an assemblage of all the waters, and He named it the sea (mare). He has made an assemblage of all His graces, and He has called it Mary”. We can look at Mary, Mother of God, from many points of view, for example from the Bible, especially the Gospels. We see her as the virgin full of grace, mother mediatrix of all graces and as a virgin perseverant to the end – just as St John describes her in his Gospel.
Today, December 8th we celebrate the solemnity of Mary Immaculate. This is very important day for our Congregation, because our General Statutes (number 5) reminds us, that Mary Immaculate is principal patron of our Congregation and adds that all Redemptorists should honour Our Mother of Perpetual Help, that we received from the Church through blessed pope Pius IX in 1866.
Mary is an example and a model of perseverance. Perseverance is one of the most important virtues in Christianity. In the New Testament (Mark and Matthew) we can read: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved”. For us Mary is a model and an example of the perpetual intercession and virtue of perseverance. We can find many situations in the Bible, which show us that Mary is the virgin of perseverance, that she doesn’t give up: she ponders and meditates in her heart to find God’s will. In that way we see her in the mystery of Annunciation, when she talks with archangel Gabriel, then we see her perseverance in going to her relative Elisabeth. Then we see her at the wedding at Cana. Despite hearing the words: “My hour has not yet come” she indicates the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them. Then we see her in public life when she accompanies her Son. The peak of this perseverance to the end is the demeanour of the Mary at the cross, which was described by St John in his Gospel.
Our Lady present in the Bible from first to the last Book.
The great devotee of Mary, St John Paul II, in his letter in reference to mysteries of the rosary, invites us to pass from the mysteries of Jesus and Mary to the mystery of God’s presence. He invites us to listen to the Risen Lord and to look at our own mysteries: joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous. He encourages us to contemplate Jesus, to reminisce about him as Mary did, to unite with him as Mary did, to ask Jesus like Mary, to preach Jesus like Mary and follow Jesus like Mary.
Nowadays we in the Church live between two jubilees connected with the icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help: the 150th anniversary of the icon being entrusted to the Redemptorists and the 100th anniversary of the first Perpetual Novena to the Mother of Perpetual Help.
The perpetual novena was celebrated for the first time on July 11th 1922 in St Alphonsus Church in the USA. The icon is an essential element of the celebration. This form of devotion spread from the USA to the whole world. Today, especially in Asia and South America, the Novena gathers thousands of Mary’s devotees each week. The biggest Shrine of the Mother of the Perpetual Help is in Manilla, the capital city of Philippines, where 100,000 people are praying each week. There are many big centres in Brazil where the novena is celebrated (on Tuesday or Wednesday). Such centres are: Manaus, Belém, Teresina, Campo Grande, and Curitiba (I have had the privilege to visit and pray there). In Brazil, next to the holy missions, the Novena is a key expression of the charism of the Redemptorists, for example In Curitiba (South Brazil) there are sixteen Novena sections, which gather approximately 30-40 thousand people.
The statue of Our Lady of Aparecida, the patron of Brazil, in the national shrine of Our Lady in Aparecida, where missionaries of Sao Paolo Province work
Mother of Perpetual Help – an icon of love. The places of Mary’s worship in Bahia, Brazil where polish and Brazilian missionaries work: Salvador, Bom Jesus da Lapa, Itabuna and Arraial d’Ajuda.
The very important element of the celebration of the Novena is the presence of the icon of the Mother of Perpetual help. The icon is a kind of window leading us to eternity, to the resurrection. We can ask: why do we need an icon? What is the purpose of having an icon? If you want to give somebody a window to the spiritual world, give an icon. If you want God to be present in one’s life, give an icon. If you want to give God’s presence, give an icon. If you want to give the gift of prayer, give an icon. If you want to open one’s heart, give an icon. If you want to say “God is great”, give an icon. If you are powerless in any situation, give an icon. Give an icon which is God’s work and a channel of God’s grace. The icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help is an icon of love.
Four looks at the icon of Mother of Perpetual Help: historical, artistic, mystical and theological. Meditations for Novena.
Saint Alphonsus, in his book “The Glories of Mary”, depicts Mary as mediatrix of all graces and as a mother of mercy. He reminisces about the Holy Mother as an example of perseverance and prayer. In the “Salve Regina” he promotes the virtue of perseverance, which Mary passes to us.
Two similar and important perseverance for Mary’s prayerfulness: “True Devotion to Mary” written by St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort and “The Glories of Mary” written by St Alphonsus.
Giving thanks to God for the Mother that He gave us, for the presence of Mary in our Congregation, I want to finish with St Alphonsus’ words: “If you persevere until death in true devotion to Mary, your salvation is certain. I conclude, not that I should not still have much to say on the glories of this great Queen, but lest I should tire you. The little that I have written will be more than sufficient to make you desire this great treasure, devotion towards the Mother of God. Salve Maria”
Author: Józef Grzywacz CSsR
Translation: Dominik Król CSsR