Why the Blessed Virgin is Honored in the Catholic Church, by Father B Rohner, OSB

statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Josef Moroder-Lusenberg, date unknown; parish church of Saint Ulrich, Gröden-Ortisei Val Gardena, Italy; photographed in March 2012 by Wolfgang MoroderIt may surprise you somewhat, Christian reader, to have the question asked: “Why is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, honored by the holy Catholic Church, and loved and venerated by all her faithful members?” Doubtless you yourself, from your early years, since the hour when you first awoke from the unconsciousness of infancy to the use of reason, have felt in your inmost soul the existence and the necessity of such devotion. From that time till the present, you have known and practised it as something very dear to you and very holy: as something very natural and easily understood. But it is useful for you to know the reasons for this devotion, which is so manifold in itself, and so universally practised in the Catholic Church. Thus you will be in a better condition to explain the practice. Not only to yourself, and for your own private edification and sanctification, but to others likewise you may be able to interpret and advocate it more intelligently, more zealously, and more profitably. For this veneration given to Mary by us Catholics has been rejected by her enemies as something superstitious and even idolatrous.

God Himself, by His Own Example, Has Taught Us to Honor Mary

Once more, Christian reader, review in spirit the life of our dear Queen of heaven, of this glorious Mother of God. Could the Almighty God have done more for her than He has done? Could He have shown to her greater honor? Had He not from all eternity predestined her and chosen her for the sublimest dignity? Did He not make use of inspired prophecies and noble prototypes, in order to awaken, centuries in advance, the respect of men for her worth, as well as their ardent longings for her appearance on earth? Did He not keep these desires of the people alive until the very hour of her birth?

At her entrance into the world, did He not show her a most extraordinary mark of distinction, by preserving her, alone among all mortals, from the stain of original sin? Have not nature and grace seemed to vie one with the other in order to adorn this noblest of all creatures with the whole wealth of the loftiest prerogatives? Did not Divine Providence, with holy care, watch over its cherished ward, from her very first breath, in order to shield her from all danger and to mould her into a perfect model of every virtue? Was not this humble handmaid of the Lord most reverently saluted in the name of the Most High, and declared full of grace, by a prince from the heavenly court, the archangel Gabriel? And then the honor of being selected to be the Mother of God! The Eternal Father chose her to be the Mother, the nurse, the preceptress, guide and guardian of the Saviour of the world, of that Jesus before whom all knees are to bend on the earth and under the earth.

And how did her Son reverence and honor her? Son of the Eternal God as He was, did He not love, honor and obey His Mother all through His life on earth? Was He not “subject” to her? Did He not dwell beneath the same roof with her, eat at the same table, share even her household duties and labors? Was it not out of tender regard for her that He performed His first miracle? When dying on the cross, did He not confide her to the care of His best beloved disciple, Saint John, in order that this disciple might for the future serve and guard her in the name of her departed Son?

Is not this enough, Christian reader? Then raise your eyes still higher. With sentiments of mingled joy and humility, dare to lift your eyes to the gentle maiden of Nazareth, who now, henceforth, and forever, reigns gloriously and benignly on an exalted throne in heaven, as the daughter of God the Father, the Mother of God the Son, the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, the temple of the Holy Trinity, the Queen of all the angels and saints, the celestial dispenser of graces, the protectress and advocate of the holy Catholic Church, and of all men in need. In this manner has an all-just God honored the Blessed Virgin. He has bestowed this honored throne upon her for all eternity. He has left to the world His own example of rendering veneration to His blessed Mother.

How then can the unbeliever reproach you, Christian reader, with ignorant superstition and even blasphemy to God, because you are devoted with childlike love and reverence to this favorite daughter of Heaven, because in your devotional practices you make this sentiment known? or because in your needs of body and soul you have recourse to her?

Mary, on Her Own Account, Merits Our Veneration

To the extraordinary gifts of grace granted by God to the Blessed Virgin, she corresponded most faithfully, most humbly, most zealously. Most energetically did she co-operate with each and every grace, in order thus to sanctity herself. Aye, she corresponded with Heaven’s graces most heroically, by suffering bravely and willingly the seven-edged sword of grief foretold by Simeon. Thus is her soul the holiest, the most like unto God, and more than any other soul endowed with personal merits.

We are all called to perfection. Guided and assisted by grace, we are to ascend, by our own individual efforts, the ladder of Christian virtues. On the highest step of this ladder stands the Queen of all saints, resplendent in the beauty and brilliancy of her virtues. It is not reasonable for the unbeliever to ?nd fault with the Christian, who, slowly and painfully climbing this ladder, and full of admiration and confidence, lifts his eyes and hands to her. She in her turn, willingly and lovingly holds out her motherly arms to support and assist the struggling Christian who would otherwise sink and fall back in despondency.

In the great plan and work of the redemption of mankind, Mary was not merely an unconscious and neutral agent, like the manger of Bethlehem, or the cross on Calvary. No, she gave her free assent and consent to the same, pronouncing the ever-memorable fiat, “Be it done according to Thy word.” To the Redeemer she cheerfully supplied His sacred humanity, His precious blood and sacred flesh, in order that He might form His own body therefrom. Who dares to say that this living ark of the New Covenant does not merit our love and veneration?

We Owe to Mary Respect and Love

What is there that mankind does not owe to the poor young maiden of Nazareth? She is the pride, the ornament, the crown of humanity. Out of love for us she conquered the almost invincible repugnance of her humble heart, and sacrificed her love of retirement and her quiet, secluded life, to assume the manifold duties and trials of a mother in a family. She it is who gave us our greatest Good, the Saviour of the world, with whom and by whom came to us hope, plenitude of grace, and salvation. It was out of love, not only for her beloved Son, but also for us that she stood beneath the cross three long hours in indescribable anguish of soul. There it was that she willingly and cheerfully took upon herself the duties, the sorrows and the affections of a mother of all mankind. And shall it not be permitted to us on our own part to entertain for her a corresponding feeling of veneration, gratitude and reciprocal love, such as grateful children should entertain for the best of mothers and the most generous of friends?

More abundant than the countless rays of the sun, more enriching than its warming and fructifying light, more beneficial and life-giving than the refreshing showers to the parched earth, are the benefits and blessings which descend without interruption from the grace-throne of the heavenly Queen, upon the Cold, in?rm and languishing hearts of men. Without intermission she watches with a mother’s anxious eyes over the Catholic Church, and over each one of its believing members. Her gentle mother-heart throbs with unceasing desire to help and forgive. Her very presence in heaven is a never-ending, vigilant and effective personal intercession for her children who dwell in this vale of tears. And the heretic would forbid us to show grateful hearts for all these valuable and countless benefits of salvation, or even to try to repay them with confidence and veneration!

God Himself Sanctions and Rewards Respect for Mary

The most high God has not only given us Himself the example of honoring the Blessed Virgin, but He proves also in reality and in deed that a con?dent and reverential feeling on the part of man towards His Mother is pleasing to Himself.

Whence does it come that every truly Catholic heart on this globe, has, during all ages of Christianity, turned to the blessed Mother of God, in every necessity, in every trial and tribulation of body and soul? It comes from the universal experience, and the firmly admitted belief, that our merciful God is always willing to hear, accept, and grant our prayers, when they make their way to the foot of His throne by the intervention of His blessed Mother. Therefore, if our veneration of Mary and our recourse to her were not in accordance with the wish and will of God, He would not hear petitions brought to Him in that manner. Those persons, therefore, who reject veneration to God’s Mother as being displeasing to God, charge the majesty of God with the horrible imputation that, by hearkening to our prayers when brought by Mary, it justifies and encourages superstition and the deification of creatures.

Veneration to Mary Furthers the Glory of God

Self-appointed zealots for the glory of God pretend that devotion to Mary is derogatory to the homage due to God.

“The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of His hands.” (Psalm 18:1) A very heaven was Mary, for she was the dwelling-place of God. Hence “she declareth the glory of God.” She is the firmament in which and from which the divine Sun of Justice shone forth in the great mystery of the Incarnation. Thus she shows forth the work of her Creator’s hands. Mary is a shining mirror in which all her own prerogatives, and every distinction bestowed by us upon her, are reflected back on their origin, which is God.

With prophetic foresight the simple handmaid of the Lord foresaw and foretold her future position in Christian history: “Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” Not to herself, however, nor to her own merits, does she ascribe this glory, but to the most high God. She says, “for He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid: . . . He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:43-49)

And why do we Catholics venerate so profoundly a weak human creature? Because she is the Mother of God. Because God has honored her with many graces and distinguished privileges. Because God has been pleased to allow the greater benefits and graces to come to us through her. To God then as the ?nal object goes all our own respect for the blessed Mother. But they who despise the Mother Mary, do they really know how to worship God properly? Does not the neglect which they show to the Mother fall also upon the Son? If the Saviour accepts as being done to Himself every good deed that we do to the least among men, will He not much more accept all the honor and love given to His Mother as His own, and all the disrespect and coldness shown to that beloved Mother as shown to Him also?

Both the Friends and the Opponents of Devotion to Mary Strengthen Us in the Same

Just as the divine Son is set for the resurrection and the fall of many, and as a sign of contradiction (Luke 2:34), so has the blessed Mother had at all times devout clients and mean enemies. And which of these two parties has chosen the better part?

Search, Christian reader, through the history of Christendom, examine the lives of Christians: you will find that in those ages, in those lands, and in those Christian creeds, in which devotion to our blessed Lady exists and flourishes, there, too, exist and flourish a firm faith, holy love for God, pure morals, and Christian heroism. In a word, virtue has ever flourished and does still flourish where devotion to Mary is practised. In the pages of this book, Christian reader, there will be presented to your view an array of zealous clients of Mary, from different periods of time, and under every variety of circumstance. Study their lives, their deeds, their noble sentiments, and in every case you will be filled with esteem and admiration for them. Were not the greatest saints those men who are really great in the eyes of God were they not zealous advocates and practisers of devotion to Mary?

What is the state of spiritual affairs among those so-called Christians who erect no altar to the Blessed Virgin, who know neither “Hail Mary,” nor the Rosary, nor any other devotion to the Mother of God? Not only are they deprived of much that is encouraging, and consequently beneficial and educating in these pious practices, but they are also, if we may believe the testimony of history, liable to fall into spiritual frigidity and infirmity. They lack interior vigor and fruitfulness. They soon come to resemble very much a family that is deprived of the characteristic, gentle and fruitful influence of an affectionate mother. Even in the Catholic Church itself there have been times when, in certain places, perhaps owing to scandals and other causes, foolish or wicked individuals have inveighed loudly and zealously against devotion to Mary and all its manifold outward manifestations, such as the holy Rosary, pious pilgrimages, confraternities and others. But did true piety and sincere worship to the one true God become more strong and flourishing amid this opposition to the Mother of God? Was the attendance at Mass more numerous and edifying? Were the sacraments approached more regularly and frequently? You yourself, Christian reader, may be able to answer this question. Among your own acquaintances, have you not always found, if you have ever ventured to form an opinion of them, that the best-living Christians are always the most devout servants of Mary? And even yourself, dear Christian, at those periods in your life, and in those conditions of your soul, when you found most pleasure and happiness in serving God, in treading in the path of His law and His love, was it not at such times that you experienced the most zealous love and respect for your blessed Mother, and were most devoted to her service?

Perhaps, dear Christian, these few reasons, which from among countless others equally strong, I have brought to your attention, may have the happy effect of encouraging you and urging you on anew to a still greater practical devotion to your blessed Mother. They may also serve you as weapons of defense against all those who would seek to disturb you in those cherished practices of piety, and mock you for honoring her whom God Himself was pleased to honor.

– text taken from Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her Feasts, Prayers, Religious Orders, and Sodalities, by Father B Rohner, OSB, adapted by Father Richard Brennan, LLD, published in 1898 by Benziger Brothers; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael Augustine, Archdiocese of New York, New York, 22 June 1898