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For the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Linda Jones from CAFOD’s Theology Team reflects on the different qualities of Our Lady, and how she can inspire us to have the strength and courage to act.

During the summer of 2019, when I was walking along the Pointe du Raz cliffs in Brittany, I came across a beautiful statue of Our Lady. Here she is known as Our Lady of the Shipwrecked. She looks compassionately on a man reaching towards her in seeming despair.

As I walked on, I thought about the different ways we see Mary. I wondered about the many different titles that have been bestowed on her – Star of the Sea, Queen of Creation, Blessed Mother, and more. What qualities are we focusing on in each of them? There are so many aspects of her that inspire us at different times in our lives.

If Mary our Mother is to inspire us anew today,

it might be helpful for us to meditate on her experiences and qualities.

Her powerful ‘yes’ to God when the Angel Gabriel visits her,

the excitement and joy of her visit to Elizabeth,

the glorious words of the Magnificat.

Then the profound horror and the depths of her sorrow

at the death of her Son.

Any time we stand before or see a picture

of one of the magnificent Pietà statues – like the one by Michelangelo

in St Peter’s, Rome – we cannot fail to be moved by the immensity of her love as her tears fall on the broken body of her son, Jesus.

But is there a danger in our devotion that she becomes just a symbol,

or a statue where we light our candles and then just walk away?

When I think of Mary as Mother of the Poor, it changes the way I see her. Instead of a marble statue, I see a vibrant woman with a deep and trusting faith who is willing to say yes to what God asks of her.

She is not a passive recipient,

but an active participant.

She does not simply bow her head and do what she is told,

she has the strength and courage to act.

May we too be active participants in bringing about the change

that so many of the poorest people in our world are hoping for.

May we too have the courage to speak out

about injustice and inequality.

May we nurture a deep and trusting faith in God and in his Son,

so that we too might say yes when we are asked.

Let us be deeply aware that, long before we were born,

every single one of us has been called by God

to know, love and serve him.

We have been the constant recipients of his blessings.

How will we respond?

Unlike Mary, we were born touched by a sinful world.

But we also can become filled with grace if, like her,

we say a resounding and unconditional ‘Yes’ to all that God wants from us.

Let us ask Mary today to help us to love Jesus as she did,

right through the pain of the Cross to the joy of the Resurrection.

CAFOD - Catholic Agency for Overseas Development



Almighty and gracious God, Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who was in the fullness of time born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from whom he received our human nature by which, through his suffering, death, and glorious resurrection, he won our salvation, accept, we beseech you, our thanksgiving for the witness of Mary’s faith and the courage of her obedience.

Grant to us, we pray, the faithfulness to stand with her by the cross of your Son in his redemptive suffering and the suffering of your pilgrim Church on earth. By the gift of your Spirit, increase within us a lively sense of our communion in your Son with the saints on earth and the saints in heaven.

May she who is the first disciple be for us a model of faith’s response to your will in all things; may her “Let it be with me according to your word” be our constant prayer; may her “Do whatever he tells you” elicit from us a more perfect surrender of obedience to her Lord and ours.

Continue to lead us, we pray, into a more manifest unity of faith and life so that the world may believe and those whom you have chosen may, with the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, rejoice forever in your glory. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

Fr.Richard John Neuhaus, a Lutheran minister who became a Roman Catholic Priest, and founder of a radical journal “First Things” (U.S.A.)

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