During his general audience on Aug. 12, Pope Benedict XVI commemorated the feast of the Assumption by focusing on Mary as the mother of priests.
The Holy Father emphasized how Mary looks upon priests with special affection as her sons because their mission is similar to hers: Priests are called to bring forth Christ’s saving love into the world. When he was on the cross, Jesus invited all believers, especially his closest disciples, to love and venerate Mary as their mother.
Dear brothers and sisters,
The celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary next Saturday is drawing near. It is also the Year for Priests. Therefore, I would like to speak about the relationship between Our Lady and the priesthood.
This relationship is deeply rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation. When God decided to become man through his Son, he needed a “Yes” that was freely given by one of his creatures.
God never acts against our freedom. So something truly extraordinary happened. God allowed himself to become dependent on the freedom to say “Yes” by one of his creatures; he waited for this “Yes.”
In one of his homilies, St. Bernard of Clairvaux described in a dramatic way this decisive moment in the history of the universe — this moment when God, heaven and earth waited to see what this creature would say.
Thus, Mary’s “Yes” was the door through which God was able to enter the world and become man. In this way, Mary is involved in a real and profound way in the mystery of the Incarnation, in the mystery of our salvation.
From the very beginning, the Incarnation — the Son becoming man — was determined by the giving of self, by the giving of himself with much love on the cross in order to become bread for the life of the world.
In this way, too, sacrifice, priesthood and the Incarnation are interconnected, and Mary stands at the center of this mystery.
Let us go now to the cross. Before his death, Jesus saw his Mother at the foot of the cross. He also saw a beloved son.
This beloved son was certainly a very important person — a very important individual. But he was something more. He prefigured and was an example for all his beloved disciples — for all those people whom the Lord has called to be his “beloved disciples” and, consequently and in a special way, for all his priests.
Jesus says to Mary, “Woman, behold, your son” (John 19:26). It was, in a certain way, his testament: He entrusts his Mother to the care of a son, a disciple. But he also tells this disciple, “Behold, your mother” (John 19:27).
The Gospel tells us that from this moment, St. John, the disciple whom he loved, took Mary “into his home.” At least this is how it is in the English translation.
However, the Greek text is much more profound, much richer. We can translate it in the following way: He took Mary into the intimacy of his life and his being — eis tà ìdia — into the depths of his being. Taking Mary with him meant introducing her into the dynamic nature of his own life — into the whole sphere of his apostolate — and not merely some exterior reality.
A Special Relationship
I think it is understandable, therefore, how the special relationship of motherhood that exists between Mary and priests constitutes the primary source and the fundamental reason for the special favor that she cultivates for every priest.
Indeed, Mary has a special regard for them for two reasons. First of all, they are most like Jesus, the supreme love of her heart, and secondly, like her, they are committed to the mission of proclaiming, giving witness to, and imparting Christ to the world.
By identifying and conforming himself to Jesus, the Son of God and the son of Mary, in a sacramental way, every priest can and should feel as a truly beloved child of this most high yet most humble of mothers.
The Second Vatican Council invites priests to look at Mary as the perfect model for their own lives.
Priests, the council says, should “love and venerate with filial devotion and veneration this mother of the eternal High Priest, Queen of Apostles and protector of their own ministry” (see Presbyterorum ordinis, 18).
St. John Vianney, the holy Curé of Ars, whom we remember in a special way this year, used to say: “Jesus Christ, after having given us everything that he could possibly give, also wanted to make us heirs to what he held most precious, that is to say, his own holy Mother” (B. Nodet, Il pensiero e l’anima del Curato d’Ars, Turin 1967, p. 305).
This is true for every Christian, for all of us, but especially so for priests.
Dear brothers and sisters, amid all the problems of today’s world, let us ask Mary to help all priests conform to the image of her son, Jesus, as they dispense the immeasurable treasure of his love as the Good Shepherd.
Mary, mother of priests, pray for us!
Translated by the National Catholic Register