A reflection from Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT
Our Lady of Conquering Love
The following poem yields some simple clues about the real nature of Mary.
Into cobwebbed haunts
And festering darkness
Slips a Lady of Light
In search of her children.
In many respects Mary is not known as she should be, often because popular devotion tends to trap her within the confines of pietistic practices and images that don't always lead to a real relationship. Praying the rosary, asking Mary's intercession, and honoring her in different ways has so much more efficacy and meaning when we know and understand her as she really is.
In speaking to groups of women from different countries and different backgrounds, there is always a weak response to the question: "How many of you would say you have a close relationship with our Blessed Mother?" In response to the follow-up question: "How many of you find it hard to relate to Our Lady?" the majority of hands go up. She lived 2000 years ago, is portrayed as basically silent with a few notable exceptions, and of course was always praying, but in such a way that it seems like a private affair. Not much for the modern person to connect to.
And yet, this is a shame, a great loss to many of us because Mary is more favored, has a richer personality, more gifts, deeper emotions, greater wisdom, profounder graces, more sensitive, loving virtue, and a more heavenly human beauty than anyone who ever was or ever will be born, aside from Jesus himself. No one sways the heart of God nor reaches it as quickly as She does. And no one aside from God Himself loves us as much as she does!
She is ours! This is who God has given us to be our Mother, the very one He singled out and prepared for Himself. This is the woman of unshakable faith in the midst of suffering and sorrows we will never even remotely comprehend or appreciate. This is a woman of invincible faith, hope and courage, who comes up from the desert like an army in battle array and crushes the head of the ancient enemy with her heel. Her humility, simplicity and modesty are more feared by the powers of darkness than the greatest preaching on earth! This is the soul so full of grace and light, and adorned with such great fruits that it alone ravishes the heart of God and causes Him to send floods of grace upon the whole world, beginning with the greatest gift of all, the sending of His own Son, Jesus, to be our Savior.
This is not a passive woman, nor a pushy, aggressive one either. This is the valiant woman par excellence, who is as active a mother in the world today as she was when she mothered all those Jesus gave to her care during His hidden life, His public ministry, and in the early Church as it struggled through persecution to establish itself and evangelize the whole world.
How is Mary at work today, aside from her many apparitions? There are some extraordinary stories which are not as well-known as they should be.
One of the great stories from our recent history comes to us from the Philippines. The Philippines is a poor country, and the trials and sufferings of its people are immense. At the same time the people have a vibrant, living faith that freely expresses itself in their culture.
During the 1980s, after having suffered for 20 years under the corrupt, oppressive, authoritarian Marcos regime, their spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin, called for a Marian year. People attended Rosary rallies, processions and special Masses by the millions, imploring Our Blessed Mother's help.
At end of the year (1986), the people, including Priests and Religious, took to the streets, again by the millions, praying, carrying banners, and demanding that Marcos step down. Marcos responded by sending tanks into the streets and ordering his soldiers to fire upon the crowds. The soldiers looked into their gun sights to take aim but saw images of Our Lady everywhere. They could not, would not fire. In the end Marcos was airlifted out of the country and democracy was restored.
This was an unheard of thing, a completely bloodless, nonviolent revolution. Secular media called it the People Power Revolution. The Spanish of another era would've called it the work of La Conquistadora, Our Lady of Conquering Love! And the Filippinos themselves know where the real victory came from.
Blessed Pope John Paul II took his cue from the events in the Philippines and called for a Marian year for the whole world from June 7 (Pentecost), 1987 to August 15 (the Assumption), 1988. Following the close of the world-wide Marian year, the Iron Curtain fell, and shortly thereafter the Soviet bloc disintegrated, all to the utter astonishment of the secular press.
Coincidence? Don't believe it! They say the most common word heard on the battlefield is "mother". But this is the Mother we need in the battles we fight today. We are all her children and she is ready to help any who approach her.
To those who might object to all this attention, remember, Mary is Jesus' gift to us! The Church does not ask us to worship Mary. Jesus does not ask us to worship Mary. He is simply asking us to love our Mother as He does. It is a love upon which Jesus bestows boundless blessing. Love your Mother! There is none better!