I have the privilege of writing this column as I am on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, with Father Andrew Auer, several parishioners from St. Clare of Assisi Parish and others. Before I left for the pilgrimage, friends told me that Lourdes is a special place and that the Blessed Mother is “still there.” Several Catholic authors have echoed the sentiment as well. I can say that they’re all correct. After only just arriving, a mysterious sense of peace and safety rose within me. It is as if Mary’s mantle has been spread over the whole place, while the long walkways leading up to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception reach out like Mary’s arms to embrace the visiting pilgrims. A statue of Bernadette praying near the grotto shows forth the visage of one who sees the “beautiful Lady,” and is thus consoled beyond any undue fear or anxiety. In brief, when we rest in our mother’s arms, what danger or toil can disturb us?
This same reality plays itself out frequently in my office when I am providing spiritual direction and counseling. I like to prompt my directees and clients to approach Jesus with concerns and insecurities, joys and blessings. Still, there are some who are afraid to approach Jesus. It can be intimidating to approach our Lord when we are filled with shame or regret. Invariably, I ask my directees and clients if they might find it easier to approach Mary first. Many do. From there, she unfailingly reduces shame and undue anxiety, allowing fearful souls to approach her Son in good time.
St. Louis-Marie de Montfort frequently told Christians the story of a farmer who wanted to present his king with an offering from his fields, but the farmer was fearful that his offering would be too meager an homage. On his way to present his gift, the gentle and kindly queen mother took the farmer’s offering, placed it on a golden plate with flowers and other decorations and presented it to the king on the farmer’s behalf. The king, of course, could not refuse the gift of his queen mother. Just so, St. Louis-Marie encouraged Christians to go to Jesus through Mary, trusting that she would prepare them well to meet her Son.
It is a rule of love that the treasures of the beloved are treasured also by the lover. Those who are hesitant about devotion to Mary simply do not understand that at the center of her heart is a burning love for her Son, Jesus. If we love her, we cannot help but love her Son, too. Moreover, what a great consolation it is each May to crown her our queen! It is a gift that as our Savior wrought our salvation on the Cross, He also gave us a mother in heaven: “Behold your mother” (John 19:27). In her arms, as in the arms of any gentle mother, there is safety and peace. In her soul, there is the magnification of the Lord’s love. In devotion to her Immaculate Heart, our love for Jesus is magnified too.
Father Conor Sullivan is currently in residence at Immacolata Parish as he works for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Vocations Office and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary as a provisionally licensed psychologist.