Fr. Roger J. Landry
Our Lady of the Rosary Monastery, Summit, NJ
Mary, Patroness of the Order of Preachers
May 8, 2003
1) We are celebrating today the great feast of Mary as Patronness of the Order of Preachers. The style and reality of Mary’s patronage is not as a benefactor, but as a mother. We see this reality in the Gospel, when Jesus gave her as a gift to his beloved disciple — “behold your son,” “behold your mother,” and we’re told the disciple took her into his home. Therefore there are two moments in this action from the Cross and two reasons to celebrate:
a) The Gift of Mary to us as a mother and patron by Christ. For the members of the Order of Preachers, we can think back to that vision St. Dominic had when the Lord showed him members of various religious orders, but Dominic was crestfallen because he did not see any from his own. The Lord called him to come closer to Our Lady, put his own hand on our Lady’s shoulder, and asked her to open up her mantle. Underneath that cape, Dominic saw the members of his Order and Christ told him that he was giving Mary — his mother, our mother — as a special patron to the Order.
b) Our response to the gift, taking Mary into our home, confiding in her maternal patronage.
There are the two things we will focus on today.
2) The gift of Mary as patron. She fulfills her role in two ways, depicted so often in Christian art and architecture:
a) Mary gives us Christ — As we see in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the back of this chapel, an image that comes from a divine source, Mary is seen pregnant, waiting to give birth to Jesus in us and among us. In so many statues, like the one in your choir, Mary is seen holding the baby Jesus, not possessively, but to give him to us, as she’s giving him in that statue to St. Dominic. Even in certain depictions of the pietà, Mary is seen presenting to us the dead body of her Son. Mary gives us Christ. She’s interceding for us so that we might receive those graces she knows we need to help us to grow to full statue in Christ. She’s interceding for us right now, this morning, for those graces we’ll need to love and serve the Lord the rest of the day.
b) Mary protects us — We see this depicted in art so often, with Mary’s crushing the head of the serpent. This refers not only to her Immaculate Conception as the fulfillment of the protoevangelium, but her work throughout her life. Mary continues to stomp on the demonic snakes that are trying to bit us. What is she concerned about mainly? The one harm Jesus told us to fear, the one that can kill the soul — the devil and sin. Like with the child in the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation, Mary has taken you into the desert, here at this monastery, to protect you.
3) The second moment is our response to each of these actions of our patron:
a) Behold your provident mother — Mary wants to give birth to Jesus in you, she wants to give her Son to you and have you receive him. She lives to intercede for you, but each of us needs to invoke her and receive Him. Two special ways have been given anew to the Church in recent days by the Holy Father to help us to do this. The first is the Rosary, in which we contemplate the face of Christ, now ever more luminous, so that Mary might raise us to become ever more like her Son. The second is the Holy Eucharist, in which we behold the Eucharistic face of Christ, the total self-giving love of our Savior. Here Jesus gives us his body, the body Mary gave Him, the body she always wants to give to us.
b) Behold your protective mother — Mary wants to protect us from sin, but we have to receive her protection. How does she try to fulfill this role? How will we receive it? We learn so much from what she said and did in Fatima in 1917. When she appeared to the three young children in Cova D’Iria, she gave them a vision of Hell, she gave them a vision of all that the Church would suffer throughout the 20th century and beyond, she gave them a prophecy about the rise of communion and the harms it would accomplish, but then she also gave them the solution to all the problems that the world would face and that individuals would face, the solution to the lack of peace among nations and in hearts. And the solution is, on first glance, surprising, because it is not what we would ordinarily think of as the solution to such vexing personal and global-political problems: consecration to her Immaculate Heart. Why this action? How would this protect the world? Because Mary’s Immaculate Heart was pure, and, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God!” Consecration to Mary’s heart helps us to obtain real purity of heart, so that we may see God in every situation, in every person, including those who seem to be enemies. And when we see God, it’s so much easier to follow him and to love him. But Mary’s heart is one that does not merely see God, but says yes to God in everything. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum! It’s a heart that treasures everything, even sorrows, as gifts from the Lord. Our response to Mary’s protective patronage is this consecration.
4) Pope John Paul II has put the Church under her protection and patronage many times. He just rejectly consecrated the youth of the world to her. But this “large” consecration happened only after his personal consecration of his vocation to the Blessed Mother. This day of celebration for the gift of Mary’s patronage over the Order of Preachers is a call for each individual Dominican to reconsecrate herself to this maternal, provident and protective patronage.
5) We could perhaps do no better than to use together today that consecration John Paul II took as his papal motto: “Totus Tuus.” Totus tuus ego sum and tota mea tua sunt. Accipio te in me omnia. Praebe cor tuum, O Maria! I am all yours, O Mary, and all I have is yours. I receive you into the whole of my being. Give me your heart, O Mary!” Give us your heart, your pure heart, your heart that says yes to God in everything, your heart that treasures God in everything, so that we may bless Him with it, praise Him with it, preach Him with it, and love Him with it, in this life and forever with you in the next! Praised be Jesus Christ!