From Bishop Patrick Neary: Mary wraps us all in her compassion and love

Osbipo Patrick Neary C.S.C.

As all of you know, for centuries now the Catholic church has set aside the entire month of May to honor Mary, Mother of God. Not just a day in May, but the entire month. Some say it was created to replace various pagan cults. The actual reason is the fact that this month is the time when spring is at the height of its beauty. In medieval times, similar customs abounded, all centering around the practice of expelling winter, as May 1 was considered the start of new growth.

There are many titles associated with Mary, more than I could list here. For my coat of arms, I chose the six-pointed star that is the symbol of Mary, Star of the Sea, which is also on the shield of the University of Notre Dame, my alma mater. My religious order, the Congregation of Holy Cross, was placed under the patronage of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, by our founder, Blessed Basil Moreau. On one side of the crest of the crosier I received from my religious order at my episcopal ordination, there is a beautiful painted image of Our Lady of Sorrows, with seven arrows piercing her sorrowful heart.

I also feel a strong attachment to Our Lady of Guadalupe, ever since I spent the spring semester of my sophomore year in college living with a family in Mexico City. I will never forget the experience of visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the first time. When I passed underneath the framed tilma of St. Juan Diego, and saw her image upon it, I had a moment of revelation. Mary had the eyes, skin color and dark hair of the native peoples of Mexico. She came to the people of Mexico in the painful aftermath of the Spanish conquest to lighten the burden of their suffering. Now she is the patroness of the Americas.


Worshippers hold candles May 12, 2022, at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal. Thousands of pilgrims arrived at the shrine to attend the 105th anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to three shepherd children May 13. (OSV News photo/Pedro Nunes, Reuters)

When Mary appears in any land, she takes on the racial and ethnic characteristics of those to whom she appears. She comes as a tender, loving and compassionate mother, to be present among those who are heavily burdened and find life to be one of constant struggle, suffering and pain.

Each year on Good Friday I think of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, standing at the foot of the cross watching
her son suffer unspeakable pain, and being powerless to do anything but simply be present to him as his loving mother. 

Having recently celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday at St. Mary’s Cathedral, I spoke of how there is a crisis of compassion and mercy on a grand scale in our world. Over 31,000 people have died in the Israel-Gaza conflict, close to half a million people have been killed or seriously injured in two years of war in Ukraine, a human toll not seen in Europe since World War II. Haiti has descended into chaos and 53,000 people have abandoned the nation’s capital, Port Au-Prince. Officials estimate the number of victims of human trafficking is estimated to be around 27.6 million worldwide at any given time. 

Mary, Mother of Mercy, is not just sitting on her throne in heaven, for she is still on a mission to stand at the foot of the cross of suffering humanity to bring them comfort. I especially feel she is present to mothers in Gaza who carry starving children in their arms, to parents whose children are still held hostage by Hamas and to the Ukrainian parents of more than 20,000 children who were forcibly removed by Russian forces and whose whereabouts are still unknown. She is present to those migrant mothers, fleeing violence and hunger, who have carried their little children many miles on their backs, and now find themselves sitting at our nation’s borders. She is with mothers and fathers whose children are in prison. 

We are Mary’s sons and daughters. In this month of Mary, let us regularly offer special prayers, the rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet, for a particular group of suffering humanity. May we, like Mary, Star of the Sea, be a light to those who suffer. May we, like Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, be present to those who carry a heavy cross. May we, like Mary, Mother of Mercy, bring mercy and love to those who feel unloved, lonely and unwanted. 

In this month of May, which is Mary’s month, she reminds us that Christ her son who rose from the dead, symbolizes spring at the height of its beauty. Because he has conquered sin and death, soon enough it will
be springtime forever!

Yours in Christ, Bishop Patrick M. Neary, C.S.C.

Feature photo courtesy of Central Minnesota Catholic.

Author: Bishop Patrick Neary, C.S.C.

Leave a Reply