How Mary helps us confront the culture

by Barb Ernster

A quote by St. John Damascene, one of the Fathers of the Eastern Church, speaks volumes about devotion to the Blessed Mother:  “What is there sweeter than the Mother of my God? She has captivated my spirit, she reigns over my tongue, day and night her image is before me.”

Mary is a woman of very few words—not only at Fatima, but in Scripture. Yet, they are words that one can ponder ever deeper in their meaning and spiritual richness.

How many times have we reflected on the scene from the wedding feast at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you” (Lk 2:5), or her beautiful promise at Fatima: “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.” (June apparition)

Through the Fatima message, we discover her Immaculate Heart, and through the Rosary we discover Jesus. The Rosary has always left me feeling stronger and less anxious about life. Because of the habit of the daily Rosary, my relationship with this good Mother has grown and I feel her presence in my life.

Mary helps us in these times  

Mary is a great gift that Jesus gave to us at the foot of the cross, because He knows that like children asking for something of their dad, he will often say, “Go ask your mother.”

She has been given a special role of being our advocate, our protector and the one who will obtain the graces we need from God the Father. The Church teaches that with, through and under her Son, by her cooperating in acquiring all graces on Calvary, she is the Mediatrix of all graces.

In fact, at Fatima, St. Jacinta told Lucia just before she was going to die:

“It will not be long now before I go to heaven. You will remain here to make known that God wishes to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When you are to say this, don’t go and hide.

“Tell everybody that God grants us graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that people are to ask her for them; and that the Heart of Jesus wants the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated at His side.

“Tell them also to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for peace, since God has entrusted it to her.”

Then she said, If I could only put into the hearts of all, the fire that is burning within my own heart, and that makes me love the Hearts of Jesus and Mary so much.”

Here we see a 9-year-old child who knows intimately what the Immaculate Heart is—a burning fire of love for God—because she herself is experiencing this.She had a fire in her heart and it caused her to have such great love for souls that she embraced tremendous sacrifices and sufferings to help them be saved.

This is the Heart of Mary. In fact, when Mary sees her fallen children, her Heart burns even more for them.

And like St. Bernadette, who knew nothing of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Jacinta had not been educated on the doctrine of Mediatrix of all graces. Yet, she understands it. She knows that Jesus wants us to go to His Mother and ask for the graces we need, and that this devotion to Mary’s Heart is the means by which we can achieve peace.

To be devoted to Mary means to have a personal relationship with her—one heart devoted to the other—devoted with a capital “D”.  When we are devoted, we are concerned with the things she is concerned with; therefore, we do the things she asked us to do: the Rosary, Brown Scapular, Consecration, First Saturdays, Morning Offering. These devotions, with a small “d”, make visible our personal relationship with her and we do them out of love for her.

Confronting the culture

There is no shortage of people to pray for, situations that need to be resolved and horrible evils to overcome in the world today. But closer to most of our hearts are our own families and friends, many of whom are living lives contrary to the Faith and the natural law.

It’s very hard to present the teachings of the Catholic Church in a world that has labeled them “old fashioned” or worse, “hateful”.  Jesus says to love the sinner but hate the sin, and as much as we try to do that, it starts to feel like we have to love the sinner and embrace the sin, as that is our “Christian” duty.

In confronting this culture, Mary can teach us three things:

  • To be charitable in everything we encounter, because this is how we love the sinner.
  • To stand in truth no matter what, because this is how we respond to the “sin” and not the person.
  • To be at peace in all situations, because God is bigger than us; He is the one who makes good out of evil, who has earned our redemption and who wants all His children saved.

Mary shows us how to love

Most of us can find many reasons to feel angry and uncharitable in our political and media-saturated culture. It doesn’t help that we rely on our devices and platforms to communicate and work. On top of that, we have to sort through what is true and what is being spun to look like it’s true.

If we take these emotions and anger to prayer, especially to the Blessed Mother, what comes to mind is her great charity, her gentle way, her loving approach to everything and everyone. It stands in stark contrast to how we can often react to the news of the day. It is good and our duty to stand up for righteousness and justice, but if it is done without love for the recipient, we are just a “resounding gong or clashing cymbal” (cf 1 Cor.13:1).

Mary helps us to chain the “pitbull” in us and calls us to charity, prudence with our words and the wisdom to know when to say something. She reminds us that God is the one who saves; we are to love as this is what we will be judged on.

Mary stands with truth

The second way that Mary can influence us is to stand with truth no matter what. We are all encountering issues with our children, family members or friends who don’t accept what our Faith teaches anymore. 

In countering the arguments for the anti-life/anti-family culture, we have to go back to the beginning as Jesus did when he countered the arguments for divorce:  “…from the beginning it was not so…”  (Mt 19:8). The story of man’s creation in Genesis is not just some fairy tale. It really is how we are to understand the dignity of our personhood—that we are made in the image of God—male  and female; God’s image is revealed in our bodies. And the union of the male and the female is so powerful in its image of the Holy Trinity that new life proceeds from the love between the man and the woman.

Another example: God has made covenants with His people, and Jesus entered into a new covenant on the night before He died. What He says about eating His flesh and drinking His blood is true: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn 6:52). There is something very special about what is being revealed here and it cannot be minimized for the sake of those who do not believe. Jesus did not scale down this teaching for the sake of those who could not accept it. 

When confronting our children who are dealing with the culture, they very often will not hear the truth of our Faith accept from us. We cannot water it down for the sake of ignorance or unwillingness to accept it. God tells us in Scripture, “Every command I enjoin on you, you shall be careful to observe, neither adding to it nor subtracting from it” (Dt 13:1). So which commands can we ignore in favor of the gods and idols of the culture?

It boils down to the First Commandment that we are to love the Lord Our God with all our heart, mind and soul, and have no other gods before Him. When truth becomes relevant, beholden to our own feelings, it doesn’t mean anything. As St. John Paul II tells us, “There is no liberal or conservative. There is just truth.”

If anyone knows the pain of having to stand firm in truth it is Mary. She stood for it like no one else at the foot of the Cross. She stood in the mob atmosphere, facing the crowds that triumphantly mocked and shamed her and her Son. She didn’t get through that day by screaming back at her opponents. She just held firm and gave the rest over to God with unyielding trust.

Mary brings us peace

Finally, Mary teaches us to be at peace that God will handle the big things. The Blessed Mother spent 33 years with Jesus on earth, way more than the apostles did, and Scripture tells us she pondered many things in her heart and treasured them. So, in addition to what is written in the Gospels, Mary’s heart is a wealth of information. Everything of her Son is held there like a treasure and she wants us to know this treasure. The Rosary meditations can provide great insights on the things of Jesus.

One such meditation happened to me on a Holy Thursday evening when I was pondering Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. At the time, I was praying intently for my daughter and my heart was troubled. I saw in my mind Jesus rising up from his anguish and going to meet His enemies with great courage, power and authority. I was in awe of His strength and stamina, which left me speechless. The words came to my mind, “I go before you.”

As I watched Him go into the hands of His enemies, I knew He was doing this for my daughter, and it was out of pure love. She was who He was thinking about when He went to His death. We can be assured, He was thinking of each person individually—even those we don’t like on Facebook or in politics.

It was a message to me, too. “I go before you—and you need to pick up your cross and follow Me.”  Even if I am not asked to give up my life, I am asked to lay down my life by offering it up every day as a sacrifice.

God wants me to love; He will save. Mary shows us how. If my heart is open to the hearts of Jesus and Mary, then other hearts will be opened. And that’s perhaps the most powerful thing we can do in confronting the culture

Barb Ernster is the communications manager for the World Apostolate of Fatima. This article first appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Soul magazine.

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3 Comments
  1. Inspiring article and barb’s personal meditation on Holy Thursday made such an impact.
    I have pondered that truth myself. Thank you

  2. I loved this article and plan to read it daily to remind myself to try to be (live my daily life) like Mary.

  3. I got so much out of the article you sent me
    *Mary helps us confront culture*. Thank you so much. I’ve heard some or most of these things before but for some reason they really opened my mind and heart. Thank you.
    Please keep them coming.

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