When you attend Mass on Jan. 1, you will be celebrating a day that has had a variety of titles throughout the years. It is now most familiar to us as the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. When we read the Scriptures we are filled with Marian memories: Mary with a newborn in a stable, searching for her child in the Temple, celebrating with her son at a wedding in Cana, standing beneath his cross at Calvary and gathered in an upper room with the apostles waiting for the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.
Mary is the great intercessor for the whole church. For us as Americans, since 1846 she is also the patron of our country under the title of the Immaculate Conception. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, located in Washington, D.C., is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America.
Look around your parish church. How many representations can you find of her, in the stained glass, in statuary or in pictures? Is there a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in your church, or perhaps a statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous medal or even an icon of the Theatokos? We look forward to our May altars and May crowning, and during Advent and Christmas time you may see an image of Mary decorated in della robbia style with fresh greens, apples, oranges and other fruits.
Flip through a hymnal, how many Marian hymns can you find? Go to Amazon and search for books on the Blessed Virgin, almost 14,000 titles come up. Incidentally one of those titles will be “Linking Your Beads” by Patricia Kasten of The Compass. As a family project you may want to check out our diocesan website to find out how many of our parishes are named in honor of Mary.
Marian poems and prayers abound. The most well-known of course is the Hail Mary, which is a main component of the rosary. Many of us can recite from memory the prayer “Remember oh most gracious Virgin Mary…” the prayer entitled the Memorare. How many of her titles are you familiar with? The litany of Loretto lists more than 50 titles of Mary. My favorite has always been “Morning Star.” As you read through the lives of the saints you will discover many of them had a special relationship with Mary, receiving visions, messages and holy objects. The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help right here in our diocese stands as testimony to the miraculous acts God has enacted through Mary. No woman in history has so captivated our imagination, prayers and imitation. As a new year begins, let us begin it with our own fervent “Ave Maria.”
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.