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Mama Mary as shield against war, disaster

On Saturday, June 8, Catholic bishops and priests will consecrate the Philippines to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Simultaneously at 10 a.m., all Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools, and institutions will affirm Filipinos as “bayang sumisinta kay Maria (people truly loving Mary).” Petitions are to be lifted up to the Mother of God to shield the land from natural and man-made disasters, and evil.

The event falls on the feast day of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Catholic hierarchy enjoins families to participate. The consecration is part of a nine-year novena, begun last year, to fete in 2021 the 500th year of the introduction of Christianity to the archipelago. It follows John Paul II who, in Rome on 25 Mar. 1984 before the image of Our Lady of Fatima, consecrated all peoples to the Immaculate Mother. Bishops worldwide joined from their dioceses.

Having just emerged from the divisive debate on the Reproductive Health Act, some Catholics distrust Saturday’s to be a political affair. Justifiably so. Many bishops did make an issue of the new law in last month’s midterm election. Too, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines mentions RH and “the threat of more bills in Congress to legalize practices ... contrary to divine law” as backdrop for the occasion.

Still, other Catholics are hopeful that the consecration would lead to consolidation. For, the CBCP also points to common troubles and concerns, like “the two Koreas, Sabah, and the West Philippine Sea.” As well, shared victories: “economic upturn; improvements in governance, health care, anti-poverty, education, anti-corruption; resurgent hope.”

Filipinos need strengthening prayer against what the bishops call “dark shadows.” For exorcism are: “ongoing conflicts in Mindanao and the decades-old communist rebellion, persistent joblessness, the diaspora of overseas workers, and environmental ruin.”

The belief is that consecration to Mother Mary works wonders. The bishops of Portugal did so in 1931 and 1938 on suggestion of Sister Lucia of Fatima. It supposedly led to the country’s economic, cultural, and spiritual renewal, and spared the land from the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. Filipino Catholics imagine the same conversion in the Philippines.

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Christians (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox) and Muslims have a singular devotion for Mary.

She is not a goddess to be adored, but a saint to be venerated. Yet she is most special, not least because the Mother of Christ, God the Son to Christians, but also co-redeemer of the world. The term does not mean co-equal of Christ, for she was human and not divine, but in cooperation. As Jesus ascended to, so was Mother Mary assumed into and crowned Queen of Heaven.

Immaculately conceived, Mary was one of only five persons born without Original Sin. The first two were Adam and Eve, whose fall led to the marking of all humans thence. Jesus was free of blemish because the Son of God by miraculous virgin birth. John the Baptist was born without Original Sin as soon as Mary acknowledged him during the Visitation (to cousin Elizabeth). Mary was spared of Original Sin because God’s chosen handmaiden.

The Catholics’ Lumen Gentium (#61) puts it this way: “Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin was on this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in giving back supernatural life to souls. Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace.”

Orthodox Christian churches have gigantic icons of Mother Mary that dwarf the Holy Child. Orthodox Greeks and Russians mark as a special day her presentation at age 3 to the temple, the holiest of places, reserved only for males.

As the Anglican and Roman churches patch up old strains, joint restudies of Mary are being conducted. Henry VIII had ordered the confiscation and smashing of statues of St. Mary, but a shrine recently was built in her honor in London. While it caused some murmurs among Anglicans, one bishop acknowledged the Marian apparitions officially recognized by Catholics.

Muslims regard Mary (Meriam) as the most special of women; she has a chapter in the Koran all to herself. Akin to Catholicism, Islam teaches that only she and son Jesus were untouched by Satan before birth. Meryemana, the house where Mary lived in the care of John in Ephesus, Asia Minor (now part of Turkey), is administered by Catholic friars and nuns, but most visitors are Muslims.

Some historians theorize that Christians and Muslims picked up the Madonna concept from the Egyptians’ Isis and the Romans’ Diana. But other scholars say “the female near-deity” draws from Christianity and Islam’s fellow-Abrahamic religion, Judaism. To the ancient Hebrews the source of faith and will, acting as Mediatrix between God and man, was “wisdom,” with a female gender. Eventually it evolved as a human mother, the natural and total nurturer and protector.

Filipinos particularly are Marian devotees. There are dozens of miraculous images of her -- in apparitions, mediations, and healings.

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St. Louis de Montfort prescribed frequent personal consecration to the Blessed Virgin. He wrote a prayer to Mother Mary for protection against evil:

“I, a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in thy hands, O Immaculate Mother, the vows of my Baptism. I renounce forever Satan, his pomps and works, and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before. In the presence of all the heavenly court, I choose thee this day for my Mother and Mistress. I deliver and consecrate to thee, as thy slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present and future, leaving to thee the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to thy good pleasure, for the greater glory of God, in time and in eternity. Amen.”

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