Monday, October 21, 2013

Mary Is Not Optional

The month of October used to be known also as the month of Mary even as the month of May was dedicated to her. It used to be called the month of the Holy Rosary. The other day, leafing through various Catholic magazines, I came across one that showed how to recite the rosary in very definite details. Cross – beads – decades – prayers on each were clearly outlined in large letters for anyone to read.

The whole thing struck me suddenly, deeply and profoundly. Here we are in the year 1972 following the decade of the ‘60’s where priests and nuns threw rosaries on the floor, laughed at the cult of Our lady and left Her leaving behind them a strange laughter. That strange laughter that wasn’t a laugh at all.

Being Russian I wasn’t brought up, as it were, on the recitation of the rosary. However, having attended many Catholic Schools in the course of the travels of my parents, I, of course, was familiar also with the rosary. I remembered all this as I looked at this clearly outlined pages of the article on the rosary. I looked. I wondered. And then I say this in total simplicity, I wept. I wept not because this seemed to be a sort of an age of renewal in which young people have to be told as if they were in kindergarten how to recite a rosary – no.

I wept because I could not understand how was it possible to think of a sort of “abandoning Mary”. Leaving Her outside of one’s heart, as it were. Deciding for one’s self that She had no place in the life of a Christian. To so many of us in the decade of the 60’s, she became almost ridiculous and so many boasted that they had finally flung away from them not only the Rosary, which is but a thing, but the woman Herself, with all the devotion that Christian mankind especially poured at Her feet through endless centuries. Yet, I wept not even because of all that, I wept because I saw men and women, young and old, turn away from God.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Restoration, October 1972

Reflection – In the 1940s and 50s, Catherine was mostly concerned to rescue Marian devotion and piety from the soupy, sentimental sweet overlay that so often distorted it, to show, as yesterday’s blog was about, that the mystery of Mary was at the heart of the mystery of Christ, and that the mystery of Christ had nothing ‘sweet’ about it, for it was the mystery of Love come to live, die, and rise for our salvation.

In the late 60s and 70s, though, Catherine was concerned to rescue Marian piety itself, as the backlash to (perhaps) the earlier disordered devotionalism led to Mary being entirely rejected or marginalized. She was shocked by this development. It was so clear to her that Mary lay at the very heart of the Christian faith, and that to reject her was to reject, in a certain sense, God, in that God’s plan of salvation intimately involved this woman not just 2000 years ago, but permanently in the economy of the Church and of grace.

It may seem to us a normal affair that a Catholic can grow up and not learn the rosary, and need to be taught it as an adult. This was freakishly bizarre to a Catholic of Catherine’s generation, when virtually all practicing Catholics literally learned the rosary while they were learning to talk (I am, in fact, of that post-Vatican II generation, but was spared much of this – I have no actual memory of ‘learning the rosary’, as it was just something one did from the earliest age).

But the issue, of course, is not the rosary. No authority of the Church has ever insisted that Catholics must pray the rosary, has ever made it mandatory for the faithful. The issue is Mary and having a place in our hearts and our lives for this woman. The specific form of Marian devotion is for the individual believer to decide; the necessity of Marian devotion, Marian piety, is not.

And it is not because without Mary we do not really understand Christ. Without Mary we do not really understand what it means to be a disciple, a member of his Church. Without Mary we do not really understand what it means to be a human person. Without Mary we do not really understand what it means to be a creature. And because of all that, without Mary we do not really understand much at all about God, since God is known to us only through Christ, through the path of being His disciple in the Church, through our own humanity made in his image, and through the order of his creation.

I realize I’m just throwing these statements out there without argument. I make all the arguments for them in this book. I recommend it highly! But Catherine will go on in this article to make her own arguments for the case, so we will pick it up on Wednesday and continue to read what she has to say.

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