Pope Francis is consecrating the world–and especially Russia and the Ukraine–to the Immaculate Heart of Mary today. He’ll be doing this about 12:30 PM Central in the USA and you can watch it on the Vatican website. Today at Mass we made the consecration ourselves, led by Father Ian. Here’s where you can download it if you’d like to do the same! Let us all be united in prayer for peace in Ukraine and Russia.
You shall answer and say before the Lord your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number…\’ (Deuteronomy 26:5)
People have always been migrants, for one reason or another. Although we manage to settle in one place for a time, we usually end up on the move again. In the United States, this is usually a voluntary choice: a decision to go elsewhere to find a better job, good weather, a safer neighborhood. But you can look at any newspaper or Internet news site to see that Americans are privileged. The majority of the world\’s migrants are on the move because they have to go. It\’s a question of life or death. They are getting away from religious fanatics, drug cartels, oppression by the government, and general lawlessness. They leave home, often with only the clothes on their backs, and they journey to an unknown destination.
When you read the Bible, you find that it is primarily about people moving around. Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden. Abraham was called to live in a faraway country called Canaan. Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. During the time of Jeremiah the prophet, the people were systematically rounded up and taken by force to Babylon. And, of course, the story most of us know best: the journey of Mary and Joseph away from their home in Nazareth to be enrolled in the census in Bethlehem, and then their flight into Egypt to escape Herod\’s murderous plans.
Pope Francis has added this title, Solace of Migrants, to the Litany of Loreto in order to remind us. Not just of the past, although that is essential. But we must also remember that nothing in life is ever stable. Even a hurricane or tornado can force people to migrate. They see their homes and lives completely ruined, and all they can do is try to start over.
A Christian writer once suggested that a creed for Christians that begins, \”My father was a wandering Aramean…\” might be more meaningful than the creeds we recite during Mass on Sundays. Although we don\’t think this should be an actual practice, she makes a good point. All of us are, in a sense, wandering Arameans. We are separated from God, and we spend our lives searching for Him. We are strangers and sojourners on this earth, and our true home is in Heaven.
The title \”Mother of Mercy\” is familiar to most of us from the well-known Salve Regina, in which Mary is addressed as our Queen and Mother of Mercy.
Note that this is the chant used by Dominicans, and is completely different from the Gregorian version often found in parish hymnals, etc.
Why do we call Mary our \”mother of mercy\”? It is a fitting title, because she was completely human, and yet born without Original Sin, thanks to the foreseen merits of her son Jesus. Mary could see all the flaws and faults of the rest of humanity, and look upon these with mercy and compassion, not because she had personal knowledge of these things, but because her sinless nature gave her the privilege Adam and Eve lost when they ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden: she always knew the right way to act, and she did so. Her will was perfectly aligned with the will of God. Just as God has mercy on all His children, always drawing them to repentance when they sin, Mary too is merciful. She is not God\’s equal, but she is the most powerful intercessor with God that we have. Thus, in this time when many would rather pursue what they believe to be justice rather than show mercy toward their fellow flawed human beings, Pope Francis made a wise decision in adding this petition to the Litany of Loreto.
On June 20, the world received the news that Pope Francis has added three new invocations to the Litany of Loreto. This litany is a long series of titles praising the Virgin Mary, and asking for her prayers in return. Each title is followed by the plea, “Pray for us.” So, for example, the litany proper begins with “Holy Mary,” to which we respond, “Pray for us.”
This Litany probably dates back to the 15th or 16th century. In the Dominican Order, it is a long-standing custom to sing this litany every Saturday–Saturday being the day of the week which is usually dedicated to Mary. In our monastery, we sing the litany during Compline. And we are really serious about it! One year when Christmas fell on a Saturday, a young sister thought maybe the prioress would dispense the community from this prayer. After all, it had been a long day and everyone was tired! But, no. We sing the litany every Saturday (except Holy Saturday, of course) and every day during May while we make a solemn procession to our statue of Mary, Our Lady of the Pines.
Although the litany had a general form from the beginning, it has become customary for a pope to add a title to the litany if he feels it necessary. For example, Pope Leo XIII added both the title “Queen Conceived without Original Sin” (1883) and “Mother of Good Counsel” (1903). Pope Benedict XV added the title “Queen of Peace” in 1917, when war ravaged Europe. Pope John Paul added two titles during his pontificate as well: “Mother of the Church” in 1980, and “Queen of Families” in 1995. Now, Pope Francis has given us three more: Mother of Mercy, Mother of Hope, and Solace of Migrants. Pope Francis seems to be the first Pope to add three titles at once. But, as we all know, we live in difficult times, and the signs of these times encourage us to look to Mary for mercy, for hope, and for solace, no matter where we are in life. .
During the month of May we had a series of commentaries on the more poetic titles of Mary, which are mostly taken from the Old Testament. Now, we would like to offer some brief comments on these three new titles. Keep watching this space to see more!