The devotion to Mother Mary was known in the Catholic Church from the very first centuries. But it became widespread and deep rooted after the release of the papal bull Ineffabitis Deus by Pope BI. Pius IX. The pope declared that Mary is the Immaculate Conception and is deserving of our honor and veneration. Four years later in 1858 Mary appeared in Lourdes and confirmed the same.
In 1954 amidst the centenary celebration Pope Pius XII emphasized the Queenship of Mary and her divine motherhood. And this further fueled the spread of the devotion to Mother Mary. The celebration in Kerala is still fresh in the minds of some of us. The encyclical Mense maio by Pope Paul the VI (from 29 April 1965) focused on the Virgin Mary, to whom traditionally the month of May is dedicated to the special devotion to the Mother of God. However, the devotion to Mother Mary and the month of May as dedicated to Mary was prominent in Kerala even before this. St. Chavra and the Carmelite missionaries were the frontrunners in spreading the devotion to Mother Mary.
In 1993 I got a chance to visit Lourdes. While we were gathered together in prayer we heard someone ranting loudly behind us we turned back to see what the noise was about and we saw a man speaking loudly as if he is talking to his mother about his difficulties. All of us thought that he was mentally disabled and hence the ranting. But someone known to us corrected us saying that the person was having a conversation with Mother Mary.
Mother Mary is a solace and sanctuary to the disheartened. Above all she is our mother and this is the foundation for our devotion to Mary. Mary has received lot of gifts from God from the time of Annunciation and she proclaims this in Luke 1: 49, “For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” But Mary is known for her humility and admits that she is but a handmaid of God.
A servant owns nothing. Even their life belongs to the master. Even Jesus in Luke 17:10 asks us to say the same. “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.” A servant has no desires and wishes. He does everything as per the order form the master. Mary also proclaims this in Luke 1:48 “For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant.” Arrogance was the downfall of Adam and men in history. That is why Jesus said, ‘I am meek and humble of heart’ (Matt 11: 29) and Mary lived a humble life like Jesus.
The Lord has always upheld and chose the humble. He chose Moses a stutterer and a man of slow speck to lead the people out of Egypt (Exodus 4:10). He chose David a shepherd to be a king and blessed him (1 Samuel 16:2). Jesus chose the tax collector to be his disciples rather than the Pharisees. God always chooses the humble.
As Mary herself says God may have been attracted to Mary’s humility and decided to bless her abundantly. As her children humility is the quality that we all should emulate. Let humility be the lesion that we learn from Mary the Queen of May.
Fr Joseph Nechikkatt