Throughout the liturgical year the Church sets aside the months of May and October to have a specific focus on the Blessed Virgin Mary. This makes sense as May is a month with Mother’s Day and the Church usually celebrates Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, an event that Mary was at along with many other disciples. October is appropriate as a month of Marian devotion since we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and remember this beautiful prayer in which we honor Our Lady and pray for her intercession. In many ways, Mary is at the heart of the entire liturgical year as she continues to draw us to her Son and encourages us to live a life of faith that is an imitation of hers.
Besides May and October, the month of August can also be seen as a month of Marian devotion since we celebrate two beautiful feasts of the Blessed Mother: the Assumption and the feast of Mary’s Queenship. The Assumption is certainly the better known of the two, but the feast of Mary’s Queenship reminds us of her role as the Queen Mother of the Church. It may at first glance seem strange that the queen is the mother of the king and not the wife of the king but this was common in the time of our Lord. In those days, the king would have many wives so it would have been confusing to label his wife as the queen, so instead the queen was the mother of the king since he only had one. The queen mother played an enormously important role in her son’s kingdom and would sit at his right in his royal throne room. It was understood that whatever request the queen mother brought to her son on behalf of his subjects he would grant. It is with this understanding that we see Mary as the Queen Mother herself of the King of Kings. We know that we can always turn to her for protection and for strength in our difficult moments and she always draws us to the heart of her Son.
Every disciple is special to our Blessed Mother, but it is generally believed that priests are particularly close to her Immaculate Heart. On one level, this makes sense since priests are conformed to her Son at their ordination. But also what may attract Mary to her priests is how unlike her Son we often are. Unlike Jesus we struggle with sin, we seek the need for constant conversion, and we strive each day to be more like Jesus, knowing that often we fail in this endeavor. As a good mother, Mary sees her sons in their struggle and difficulties and she comes to our aid and her motherly heart is drawn to us. This is why it is so critical for a priest to have devotion to Mary. She is one to whom we can always turn for help and support in our difficult moments and in the trials of our ministry.
This relationship with Mary is essential for a man to begin to develop and foster during his time in the seminary. It is critical that he understand the important role Mary will have in his life as an intercessor and as a mother. In the trials of ministry and in the struggles that often accompany the work that we do we can always rely on the love of our Blessed Mother to be there for us. When I run a discernment retreat or have the high school young men at the seminary for their monthly Cathedral Prep weekend the Rosary is always an important part of our time together. This is not only to ask for Mary’s intercession in their discernment but also to show how important her role is in the life of a priest. In August, as we celebrate her Assumption and Queenship, we give thanks to the Lord for the gift of His mother who has become through grace, our mother as well.