The World Needs a Mother's Tender Loving Care
Edited version of the
sermon preached by His Grace the Archbishop, Most Reverend Anthony Pantin, at Fatima
Devotions on Sunday, October 10 1999.
The little town of Oberammergau in
Germany has become world famous for the Passion Play which it produces every ten years.
One of the chief characters in the play is Judas and the scene of his remorse and despair
is one of the highlights of the drama.
At one performance, an open-air
audience of thousands sat watching the great scene where Judas bitterly regrets his
treachery but the chief priests only laugh at him: his Master is safely in their power.
Judas can do nothing and remorse turns his thoughts to suicide. To whom can I go?
All is lost! he moans. The audience watched in dead silence as Judas slowly turned
away in utter despair. Suddenly a little girls voice rang out loud and clear:
Mummy! Why doesnt he go to Our Lady?
This beautiful question that sprung
so naturally from the heart of that little girl summarises in its own innocent way the
tremendous devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary which for centuries has been a gloriously
distinctive mark of Catholic life.
I feel quite certain that we have
everything to gain from a deepening of our devotion to Mary, and I would like to see a
much greater effort in our own country to understand Marys special place in the plan
of Gods redemption.
Just as all the world-famous Marian
shrines, for example, Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, are also shrines of intense devotion to
the Blessed Eucharist, so too, a clear appreciation of Marys role in our life will
go a long way in making us into fervent and devoted apostles of Jesus. On the other hand,
any attempt to restrict or to diminish devotion to Mary will inevitably lead to a
lessening of the whole Christian life.
Let me, then, dearly beloved, in all
humility but with equal clarity since it is my duty to be the shepherd and teacher of the
faithful in this archdiocese, apply here the beautiful words of the Book of Wisdom which
the Church so often applies to Our Lady: What I have learned without self-interest,
I pass on without reserve; I do not intend to hide her riches. For she is an inexhaustible
treasure to men, and those who acquire it win Gods friendship, commended as they are
to him by the benefits of her teaching. (Wis 7:13-14).
Why then do we venerate Our Lady?
Simply because for us Mary is, above everything else, a mother: mother of God and mother
Of course, as we all know, all this
is based on the dogmatic fact that there is but one Person in Jesus Christ, a Divine
Person, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity who, without in any way ceasing to be
God, became man through Mary. Jesus Christ has therefore two natures at the use of the one
The early Councils of the Church
which defended so stoutly the divinity of Christ against the heresies of the day thereby
defended also the divine motherhood of Mary.
That there have been and probably
will continue to be certain untheological exaggerations in the expressions of devotion
towards Our Lady cannot be denied but, in a world where so many people are influenced by
horoscopes and planets, it is hard to see that pious exaggerations will do much harm.
To be truly intelligent in our
devotion to Mary, we should certainly avoid all forms of superstition. It is also
necessary to understand that it would be wrong for us to picture God our Father as an
angry tyrant whose punishing hand is held back only by the entreaties of the Virgin Mary.
Let us be clear on this point: a thousand Virgin Marys could never begin to love us
as much as God, for He loves us as only an infinitely loving and lovable being could love.
But once we have set aside all these
uninformed and exaggerated tendencies, we can gaze with delight and awe on the
extraordinary dignity of this humble virgin of Nazareth:
With God the Father she can look upon
Jesus Christ and say: This is my Son, the Beloved.
God the Son, Light of light, can look
upon her and say: She is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of
Gods creative power, image of his goodness.
(Wis 7: 26).
God the Holy Spirit can look upon
Mary and say: It is in you that I formed Jesus Christ, first spiritually and then
physically and it is through you that I shall continue to form him spiritually in men
until the end of time.
Such is the unmistakable plan of God,
of the all-powerful God who could have chosen so many other ways of bringing the world
back to Him but who decided irrevocably that the world would be saved only through Jesus
Christ who was born of the Virgin Mary.
The Scriptures were not written to
tell us everything. There are many things that have to be developed and amplified by the
intelligent application of the mind to what is known. But what the Scriptures do tell in
very clear terms is the altogether special role of the Virgin Mary.
The Gospel according to St Luke gives
Mary a very prominent place in the first three chapters which speak of the conception of
Our Lord, his birth and the events that followed. St John shows her as present at the very
first miracle worked by Jesus at Cana and actually having a hand in the miracle. He shows
us Mary standing at the foot of the cross when the worlds redemption was being
accomplished, and the Acts of the Apostles completes the picture by recounting how the
apostles joined in continuous prayer with Mary, the mother of Jesus and the others. It is
on this group that the Holy Spirit came down on that first Pentecost Sunday.
To complete the statements of Holy
Scripture which are heavily developed and backed, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church,
pope after pope, have extolled the greatness of Mary and held her up for the veneration of
the faithful. The faithful have not been slow in responding, for, to us all, whether
married or single, man or woman, old or young, a mother will always be a mother and we
dont have to offer anyone any explanation why we love our mother. In fact, we would
feel offended to have to prove that we should love and venerate our mother.
Now why do I say that the world needs
not merely a return to devotion to Our Lady but a strengthening and a deepening of that
devotion? First of all, because of all human persons, no one fitted more perfectly into
Gods plan than Mary. So that every single one of us can see in her the supreme
example of what all of us are called to be: an element in the whole process of renewing
the face of the earth. Mary became truly involved -
to use popular terminology - in the renewal of mankind through the Paschal Mystery of
Jesus Christ. True devotion to Mary must therefore necessarily consist in imitating her in
this involvement. This is why the externals of devotion - pilgrimages, novenas, hymns and
prayers - can easily remain separated from the really interior work which God wishes to
accomplish in our hearts and minds.
Secondly, because the world and our
own society are feeling more and more the need of a mother. For the world and our own
society have grown violent and selfish and many are being left aside, many are being
forgotten. This is particularly true in the field of education, and we have to thank God
that so many of our teachers, especially in our primary schools, are mothers who can give
and are giving that special tender loving care for which mothers have been so renowned.
I have asked you to come here to this
our national Marian shrine to pray in a special way for our education system. Let me say
right away that, unlike two or three other Caribbean islands, I do not feel in any way
threatened by our Government. Far from it.
On the February 14, 1996, the
Honourable Minister of Education wrote to me in my capacity as President of the
Inter-Religious Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago, known far and wide as the IRO. In
that very gracious letter, the Honourable Minister stated that I wish to assure you
that the role of denominational bodies in the educational system will continue to be
deepened and widened.
So it is up to us to pray to our
Blessed Mother that things will so work out that our role in the field of education will
indeed be deepened and widened. We have to pray that all those who work in our education
system whether as supervisors, principals, agents of the Ministry of education, school
teachers, academic as well as non-academic staff, may throw themselves into their work and
take delight in forming our young people into responsible and well-trained adults.
We have to pray that all the
categories of workers in the field of education may see clearly what is expected of them,
that they may cooperate with one another and, with the blessing of Almighty God, bear
We have to pray that there will
always be full cooperation between Church and State for the benefit of our children.
We have to pray for
clear-sightedness, for the ability to admit our mistakes and the humility to correct them,
for we must work not to show who is better than who, but because that is clearly
Gods will for us.
You may find a mother who is very
devoted to her children and who attends to all the cuts and bruises they receive from the
stones in the yard, and that is indeed admirable. But I am sure, dearly beloved, you will
all agree that far better is the mother who, if at all possible, has the stones removed
from the yard so that the children will not get cut and bruised.
I am calling then on all our teachers
to be truly apostolic. You cannot be truly catholic unless you are also apostolic. It is
not for mothers that Mary is called Queen of apostles. She conceived Jesus for the benefit
of mankind. The virgin motherhood of Mary was an apostolic event.
I am calling on all our Catholic
teachers to be true apostles with the children entrusted to their care, that they will not
only instruct these precious little ones academically, but also show them how to pray, how
to keep close to Jesus and how to love their companions in a truly Christ-like way. Even
as I make this call, I also realise that providing clean and comfortable conditions is a
great help to proper work, as is the prompt payment of salaries.
Before I end, I also wish to appeal
to our teachers to be kind and gentle and encouraging , not only to the students entrusted
to their care but also to one another. We are all Gods children, we are all
fellow-citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, we all have to aspire together in order to achieve
Yes, dearly beloved, let us turn with
confidence to Mary our Mother, for gaining her is more rewarding than silver, more
profitable than gold. She is beyond the price of pearls, nothing you could covet is her
equal. Her ways are delightful ways, her paths all lead to contentment. She is a tree of
life for those who hold her fast, those who cling to her live happy lives. (Prov 3:
Our Divine Saviour gave us all that
He was and all that He had, and this gift included his blessed Mother. To each one of us
Jesus is still saying: This is your Mother. And He wants us to do what John
the beloved disciple did: He wants us to make a place for her in our home. He wants to see
her gentle influence in our minds, our hearts, our lives.
For her part, Mary waits like a true
mother. She does not force herself on us. She waits patiently, even for those who seem to
have little time for her, for they are her children too. She waits and she prays: the
Refuge of sinners, the Comforter of the afflicted, the Help of Christians. She stands
there waiting to come to our assistance as soon as we say the word. So let us say the
word, let us all with joy, with gratitude, with confidence, with love, let us turn to her
and cry out from the very depths of our hearts: Mother! Mother! Mother!
News of October 31, 1999.