By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
The Blessed Virgin claims special honor in the Catholic Church. It’s rooted in her giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God. The references to Mary in the Bible are few but powerful. There’s the Annunciation, where she said, “Be it done unto me according to thy Word. I heard it taught to children simply and succinctly in a song “Mary said Yes to God.” There’s the Wedding at Cana where she advised the wine steward to listen to her son and, as she said, “Do whatever he tells you.” Or at Jesus’ death where Scripture tells us she stood silently at the foot of the cross.
Marian devotion has taken many forms since those days in Galilee. Shrines to Mary can be found worldwide. Some have international renown, such as the shrines in Lourdes, France; Fatima, Portugal, and one of the most well-known, the Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Lesser known national shrines became popular when native-son popes visited them, including Czestochowa in Poland, a favorite of Pope John Paul II and Alt Otting, in Germany, the oldest Marian shrine in Europe and a favorite of Pope Benedict XVI.
Titles for Mary developed over centuries. I knew a school where students prayed to “Our Lady of Catholic High.” In a moment of desperation in Rome some years ago I prayed for guidance to “Our Lady of the Press Conference.” It was during a papal conclave when I knew I’d have to host a media conference but didn’t know when, who would speak or about whom they’d speak.
The famous Litany of Loreto, approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587, has 51 Marian titles. Some meanings are self-evident, such as “Mother of Christ” and “Mother of Our Creator.” Some hold a touch of poetry, including my favorite, “Cause of Our Joy.” Others that tap into our romantic imagination, among them “Mystical Rose” and “Morning Star.”
I’ve thought of writing up my own modern-day litany. If I do, it might go something like this. “Guardian of the Internet,” “Protector of Talk Radio Listeners,” “Patient Guider through Airport Security” “Peacemaker in Road Rage,” “Inspirer of Artists,” and “Comforter of the Prisoners in the Pew.”