Friday, September 12, 2014

The Most Holy Name of Mary

It has been an exciting time the past couple of weeks for me. I have been trying my best to learn as quickly as possible all of my students. As the years progress, I have had a harder time processing the names. I thought for a while I was having a hard time processing the names because of the number of names already in my mental file cabinet…it’s just too overloaded. But each year I try and try. Maybe it is because I am just getting older.

This year was no different than any other year. I made my seating charts. Created a picture seating chart from PowerTeacher with my student’s names and pictures. But then, I look at them in class and just can't remember their names. I sometimes pass one of my students in the hallway and know I have them for class, but totally forget who they are.

I know it is an important task: to learn and call each student by their name. I think it is part of what we referred to this summer as: The Ministry of Friendliness.

Names are certainly important. To name a child is to give a new person the name they will have for all eternity. Rather than some in Hollywood—who have named children Apple, Ocean, Jermajesty or Moon Unit—I am happy to see most of my students found meaningful names given to them by their parents.

I met one student this summer who told me his name was a combo of his mother’s name and his father’s name. They took a couple of letters from each name and combined them. Whala! A unique name.

Today we are focusing on a particular name. It is the name of Mary. The holy name of Mary. And her name carries a significant weight.

As befitting the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, Mary has numerous titles and names. It's fascinating that one person can have so many titles, but how else could we grasp the aspects of Our Lady merely by her given name? And I know you will not see this on any late night TV show.

The Gospel of John doesn't even name Mary, only referring to her as the mother of Jesus. But we need more. And so, after surveying her many titles, I would like to present as a sort of meditation the admittedly subjective Top Ten Names of Mary.

10. Queen of Peace — Mary officially received this title during World War I in a proclamation by Pope Benedict XV. The Pope added "Queen of Peace" into the Litany of Loreto in his call for peace among the warring nations.

9. Our Lady of Czestochowa, or The Black Madonna — Poland's national shrine to Mary. Legend has it that St. Luke painted this icon on a table that Jesus built. Popes and pilgrims alike have recognized the miraculous nature of the image.

8. Mother of Perpetual Help — This painting shows the Madonna and Child attended by the archangels Michael and Gabriel. The angels hold instruments central to the Passion. The painting is heart breaking. The Christ Child, having glimpsed the instruments of torture, runs to His mother's protection. His right foot is bare, indicating He was so frightened He ran out of his sandal.

7. Our Lady of Guadalupe — This is the image Mary left on the cloak of Juan Diego. Our Lady called herself coatlaxopeuh, which means "the one who crushes the serpent." The word is pronounced "quat-la-supe," from which is derived the English version of "Guadalupe."

6. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel — This is Mary of the brown scapular. The scapular comes to us through the vision of St. Simon Stock. Many miracles have been attributed to the scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

5. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal — Mary's appearances to Catherine Laboure in 1830 marked the beginning of modern Marian apparitions. Mary gave Sr. Catherine the design for this medal. The words on the medal prompted clarification on the Immaculate Conception, which became dogma in 1854.

4. Mother of Mercy — Saint Odo, a 10th century abbot, is believed to be the first to call Mary by this name. In the 11th century, this title was incorporated into the prayer Salve Regina.

3. Blessed Mother — This seminal title derives from Gabriel's greeting to Mary at the Annunciation, where she is called "blessed" among all other women.

2. Immaculate Conception — The 1854 dogma issued by Pope Pius IX refers to Mary's sinless nature at the moment of being conceived by her parents. The Immaculate Conception was the first time a pope claimed a dogma to be infallible, even though the idea of papal infallibility would not be officially proclaimed for another 16 years. This is the definitive title of the Blessed Mother.

And now, in my opinion, the No. 1 title of the Blessed Mother:

1. Theotokos — Mary's first and most important title means "God bearer." The title, defined by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., refers to the Virgin Mary as the Mother of the incarnate Son of God.

And so today the Church celebrates the feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary to teach us how useful and advantageous it is for us to invoke her holy name in our needs.

The name Mary means "Star of the Sea". It is, says Saint Bernard, very well given to her, because she is indeed a star which enlightens, guides, and leads us to a harbor in the stormy sea of this world.

And St. Peter Canisius makes the claim that, after the Holy Name of Jesus, there is no other name more glorious or powerful than the holy name of Mary.

This feast day was first observed at Cuenca, Spain, 1513, then extended to the universal Church and assigned to its present place and rank by Innocent XI (1683) in thanksgiving to God and the Blessed Virgin for the liberation of Vienna and the signal victory over the Turks on September 12, 1683.

And so we know that Mary’s holy name will be a blessing for us. Thomas a Kempis tells us "The invocation of the sacred names of Jesus and Mary is a short prayer which is as sweet to the mind, and as powerful to protect those who use it against the enemies of their salvation, as it is easy to remember."

For this reason, we follow the counsel of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

"In dangers, in perplexities, in doubtful cases, think of Mary, call on Mary; let her not leave your lips; let her not depart from your heart."