Fr. Roger J. Landry
Retreat given at Sacred Heart Retreat House
“Renewal at the School of Mary”
November 7-9, 2003
•We’ve covered a lot of ground during our mini-course of the school of Mary. We’ve taken several field trips and learned quite a lot at each of them:
◦We visited the home of SS. Joachim and Anne, where Mary was immaculately conceived so that she could say a full hearted yes to God and be a worthy tabernacle for the Son of God. We learned about the great gift of the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation, so that we can similarly be free from the slavery of sin so that we might say yes to God and be a fitting temple to receive him.
◦We went with the Archangel Gabriel to surprise Mary at prayer with the news that she was to become the Mother of God’s Son. We learned to rejoice with her, because she was full of grace and because the Lord was with her. We learned the specificity of God’s plans and call for each of us. We learned the difference between a question and a doubt. We learned the meaning of Mary’s virginity and a virginal heart, total dedicated as a gift to God in response to God’s gift. We learned that God always wants the free cooperation of his creature. And we also learned how to say “yes” in faith, as Mary did: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”
◦We then traveled with her in haste the 60 mile journey to Ain Karim and learned that the greatest gift we could ever bring to someone else is Christ himself, as Mary did. The Holy Spirit through St. Elizabeth taught us why Mary was so blessed among women for all generations: because of the Blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus, and because of her great faith that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled. We learned with her the real source of joy, which exploded in her Magnificat, in humble gratitude to God for all his blessings. The Magnificat was a lauching pad for us to discuss the things that will help us grow in joy — the conviction that God loves us, the sanctifying presence of God within us through grace, a deep trust and hope in Divine Providence, and prayer — as well as the things that will rob us of joy — self-pity, worry, complaining and placing our trust in anything other than God. Finally Mary taught us about the real dignity and vocation of woman, and woman’s true genius, in which to “reign” is to serve.
◦We then were eye-witnesses as God did open-heart surgery on Mary so that we could discover the cause of her immaculate heart. We saw consecration to her immaculate heart, to a hear that is pure, that sees God in everything, that treasures God in everything, that says a constant yes to God, is the solution to all the problems that plague us, the Church and the world, problems that are all a result of sin. We learned the real source of Mary’s beatitude, which was not her physical relationship to Jesus, but the fact that before she had conceived him in her womb, she had already conceived him in her heart, by listening so attentively to the Word of God and putting that Word into practice that that Word literally took her flesh and dwelled among us. We heard from Jesus that to be his brothers and sisters, we, too, need to hear the word of God and put it into practice. Then we learned from Pope John Paul II the means to do just this and learn from the school of Mary, in praying the Rosary well.
◦We went with Jesus and Mary to Cana of Galilee, as guests at the most famous wedding of all time. We saw how Mary used to pray, by bringing very succinctly and clearly a need to Jesus. We learned that Mary’s intercession for us often occurs without our even knowing it or asking her to do something. We thanked her for continuing to intercede for us still. We heard her valedictory address, her greatest piece of advice: “Do whatever he tells you.” We beheld her son’s first sign, in which he sought the contribution of human beings. And we reflected on the nature of marriage, which Jesus, the Bridegroom, raised to the dignity of a sacrament.
◦Then we climbed Calvary with Mary, and stood with her and St. John at the foot of the Cross, as Jesus gave her to us as our precious inheritance and gave us to her, so that she might raise us to be like her Son, faithful to us to the end just as she was to him, especially in the most difficult moments. We focused on her great maternal love, which is the model for the Church’s and every Christian woman’s maternal love. Finally, we meditated on Mary’s relationship with the Eucharist and how our “amen” in receiving Holy Communion recapitulates her “fiat” at the annunciation.
•That’s quite a full itinerary! But we’re not done! There’s one last stop on our spiritual pilgrimage this weekend, one we’ve all been made to long for: HEAVEN.
II. Mary’s Assumption and Coronation
•At the end of her life, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of Lords, and conqueror of sin and death.
•So says Pope Pius II in his encyclical on the Assumption of the Blessed Mother.
•At the end of Mary’s days on earth, she was assumed by the power of God into heaven, blessed body and blessed soul together. Her love of God bore her upward; Christ’s love of His Mother lifted her upward. (Sheen)
•She who shared in Christ’s passion, was given, through her Assumption, a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.”
•The Catechism says that “Mary has by grace been exalted above all angels and men to a place second only to her Son, as the most holy mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ” (LG 66).
•The mystery of her eternal glory is connected with her Assumption. She is glorified as “Queen of the Universe,” this “handmaid of the Lord.” As handmaid, she confirmed that he was a true “disciple of Christ,” who came not to be served but to serve. Mary became the first who “serving Christ in others, with humility and patience,” lead others to that King for whom to serve is to reign. (RM 41). And now this servant has been exalted forever.
III. Our destiny
•Her assumption into heaven points to the clear fact that our destiny is heaven, with the God who loved us so much he created us and gave us our souls immediately and our bodies through our parents, the God who loved us so much to redeem us and the God who awaits us in heaven.
•Heaven is our ultimate vocation. We are called there by God. But just like any vocation, we can accept it or we can reject it. It requires a choice and a choice that orders all our others. If we choose eternal life with God in heaven, our choices now must be ordered to it. We should choose God in daily life: choose God on Sunday mornings, coming to Mass; choose God during the day and pray; choose God in our moral life, choosing him instead of sin, and when we sin, choose to come to him and ask him for his forgiveness; choose him more and more each day. Those who do this, those who choose God, are called saints, literally holy ones.
•Everyone who is in heaven is a saint — not just those who have been declared saints — but all those who have chosen God during their earthly lives and whom God has rewarded by granting them their choice eternally: to spend eternity with God in heaven. Many of these people were great sinners, but, responding to God’s grace (which is always there), they ended up converting to God and choosing Him the rest of the way. The good thief chose God on the Cross and that day was with God in paradise. There’s still time. Mary’s example gives us hope.
•Mary, the Blessed Mother, chose God. She chose God’s will when she said “yes” to the Father’s invitation to become the mother of His Son, even though a sword would pierce her heart, as Simeon prophesied. She chose him with her whole being, a being, which “magnified the Lord and rejoiced in God her Savior.” And God brought all of her, body and soul, into heaven, where it is to this day.
•Hence she gives us hope. As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said, “The Mother of Jesus in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. … [She is a] sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (LG 68 ).
IV. Mary’s continual intercession for us from heaven
•Mary in heaven is not just “hanging out.” She’s interceding for us with her Son with maternal love.
•The glory of serving does not cease with Mary’s royal exaltation; she continues her maternal mediation, reamining with her Son. Her union with her Son in glory is wholly oriented toward the definite fullness of the Kingdom, when “God will be all in all.” (RM 41) She reigns by serving in heaven, just as she did on earth.
•As the Pope writes, “By the mystery of the Assumption into heaven, there were definitively accomplished in Mary all the effects of the one mediation of Christ, the Redeemer of the world and Risen Lord. In her assumption, in which Mary is united by a close and indissoluble bond” to Christ, she remains with him in expectation of the second coming. She also will have the maternal role of mediatrix of mercy at his final coming.” (RM 41).
•Through her mediation she unites the Church on earth with the communion of saints.
•The Pope adds: And by her ecclesial identification as the “woman clothed with the sun” (Rev. 12:1) it can be said that “in the Most Holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle.” Hence, as Christians raise their eyes with faith to Mary in the course of their earthly pilgrimage, they “strive to increase in holiness.” Mary, the exalted Daughter of Sion, helps all her children, wherever they may be and whatever their condition, to find in Christ the path to the Father’s house. (RM 47).
V. Mary leads us on pilgrimage
•Another way of stating this is that Mary continues to lead us on pilgrimage as our guide to the eternal home.
•The Pope says, “The BVM continues to “go before” the People of God. Her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church (RM 6).
•“The Council emphasizes that the Mother of God is already the eschatological fulfillment of the Church: “In the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle (cf. Eph. 5:27)”; and at the same time the Council says that “the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin, and so they raise their eyes to Mary, who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as a model of the virtues.” (RM 6).
•Mary was the first disciple of the Lord, the first one to whom he would have said, “follow me!” (RM 20). She has followed Christ all the way, through the Cross, to heaven, and beckons us to follow that same path.
•Vatican II speaks of a “pilgrim Church” comparing her to Israel journeying through the desert. There is an exterior dimension (in time and space), but also an interior one, a pilgrimage through faith, in the HS, until she arrives at the light which knows no setting. In this pilgrimage of faith, Mary is present, both exteriorly and interiority. She mirrors within herself the central truths of the faith, and the mighty works of God.
•Like a pilgrims in a foreign land, the Church presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, announcing the Cross and Death of the Lord until he comes (RM 35). The Virgin is present on this journey, helping us, in faith, to “magnify the greatness of the Lord.”
•The Pope says, “In this eschatological fulfillment, Mary does not cease to be the “Star of the Sea” (“Maris Stella”) for all those who are still on the journey of faith. (RM 6).
•Star of the Sea. It’s a common image for us on the ocean of this world, looking up and getting direction from her about where we’re heading, preventing us from getting lost.
•Great hymns have been written about this. My favorite is “Alma Redemptoris Mater”: “Loving Mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator!”
◦Mary is our true “alma mater,” our loving mother.
◦She is the Gate of heaven. The Cure-D’Ars stated very simply: “One cannot enter into a house without speaking to the porter! Well! The Holy Virgin is the porter of heaven!” We turn to her.
◦She is the star of the sea — guiding us on the way. St. Josemaria commented:
◦JME: Don’t ever lose the supernatural point of view. Correct your intention as the course of a ship is corrected on the high seas: by looking at the star, by looking at Mary. Then you will always be sure of reaching harbour.
◦JME: Sancta Maria, Stella maris — Holy Mary, Star of the sea, be our guide. Make this firm request, because there is no storm which can shipwreck the most Sweet Heart of Mary. When you see the storm coming, if you seek safety in that firm Refuge which is Mary, there will be no danger of your wavering or going down.
•Assist your people who have fallen yet strive again — Mary always leads us surely on the path of conversion.
•To the wonderment of nature, she bore her Creator. We praise God for that great mystery as we wind down this retreat. There is wonder and awe in God’s loving self-revelation to man.
•It’s been quite a journey, this our pilgrimage, over the past 44 hours.
•As we conclude, I recall a couple of things the great retreat masters have always insisted upon.
◦The purpose of every retreat is to change us. No matter how eloquent a retreat master may be, if we don’t return home changed he’s failed. No matter how boring he his, if we return home changed by the Lord for the better, he’s succeeded.
◦In order to have the retreat have an impact on us, we cannot just “listen” to the words of the retreat, but “put them into practice,” as Mary has shown us. And the way to do that is to make some concrete resolutions that we can act upon immediately. I encourage you to write these down, very clearly and begin to put them into practice.
◦One resolution that I would ask all of you to make, on behalf of Pope John Paul II, the successor of St. Peter, is to pray the Rosary each day. He’s asked all Catholics to do this, so that they might enter into the mystery of Christ at Mary’s school and contemplate Christ throughout his life so that they might better see him and imitate him in theirs.
◦The others I would encourage you to make, on the basis of this retreat, in addition to the individual ones each of you may have formed:
■To go regularly to confession, so that the Lord may make you immaculate on the inside. As we discussed in the conference on the Immaculate Conception, she was conceived “free of sin” so that she could give a full-hearted yes to God and so that God would have a worthy dwelling place. For those of us who have after baptism, the sacrament frees and cleans us is the sacrament of reconciliation. The great saints have counseled that someone trying to become holy should go to this sacrament at least once a month. Jesus awaits you there, like a doctor, or a spiritual trainer. Let him fix what’s been broken so that you can grow to full stature in him in this world.
■To invoke Mary as an intercessor in your daily life and try to imitate her behavior, as we’ve discussed throughout this retreat.
■To cultivate a contemplative heart, in which you bring everything over the course of the day to God, to discuss it with him and its relevance. To have this contemplative heart, we need real silence. The average American watches six HOURS of television a day. But the average American spends only a few minutes praying, if anything at all. No wonder why there are so many problems. I couldn’t encourage you more strongly to turn off that television, to turn off the radio or the cd-player in the car, and use the time to talk to God who is with you. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen used to judge whether he succeeded or failed on a retreat on the basis of how many people would make the resolution to do a Holy Hour each day. We didn’t talk about that explicitly, but I ask you, on behalf of Almighty God, to consider it. If I were to ask you that, if the Pope were coming here and you would have a chance to spend an hour with him, so that he can give you advice in your own situation, would you take him up on the offer? Well, the Pope’s BOSS, Jesus, waits for you in prayer. Take advantage of that incredible gift.
■Finally, the source and summit of our faith is the Mass. Nothing is more important in the whole world than what happens here, when we enter live into the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Nothing could be more important than to hear Christ give us the directions to heaven in Sacred Scripture, than to receive God’s own life within us in Holy Communion. The Pope calls Mary the “woman of the Eucharist,” because everything in her life was united to her Son. The Mass is where God strengthens us to say yes to Him in all the struggles of our life. The Mass is the foretaste of heaven. As Catholics we have the privilege of being able to go to Mass each day to receive God. In the Mass each day, Jesus says from the Upper Room and the Cross, “I love you,” and gives over his body and blood out of love for us. I pray that you will plan your life so that you can come each day to say “I love you too.” We are made for heaven, and Mass is the greatest preparation for heaven, which will be a banquet that will never end.
◦To help you in all of these resolutions, I would encourage you to do something a young priest encouraged me to do when I was 17. He was a seminarian in my parish during the summer, a very bright guy, a very faithful seminarian (now priest), who had suffered very much on account of his fidelity, both from outside and inside the Church. He knew I’d encounter sufferings too along the way to the priesthood and as a priest. So he gave me advice to do something that has sustained me in my priesthood to this day. He told me to consecrate my vocation and my whole life to the Blessed Mother.
◦Little did I know at the time how much I’d suffer later. Little did I know that that was what Mary precisely asked us to do in Fatima, to consecrate ourselves to her immaculate heart, the heart that is pure, that sees God in everything, that treasures God, that says to him, the heart that changed the entire history of the universe.
◦I couldn’t encourage you more strongly to do the same. I know some of you are preparing to do the consecration according to the method of St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. Many of you are preparing to don these scapulars that I’m about to bless. These are a sign of consecration.
◦Pope John Paul II has also benefitted so greatly from this consecration, which he recommends to everyone as a means to live out one’s baptismal consecration. He consecrated himself to Mary at a very age according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort and has continued to consecrate himself to her and her maternal loving protection ever since. Since he has become Pope, he has consecrated each nation he has visited to her maternal care. He consecrated the whole world to Mary in 1984. His consecration in fact became his MOTTO.
◦“Totus tuus,” his motto, comes from the De Montfort formula of consecration. The longer version is totus tuus ego sum, et tota mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum.” I have said this prayer every day of my priesthood and I have encouraged many others to say it each day. I finish the retreat with it, encouraging you to make it your own: “I am all yours, O Mary, and all I have is yours. I accept you into the totality of my being. Give me your HEART, o Mary!”