Bishop's Interview: Mary, Mother of Christ, pray for us
Editor: Bishop, May is the month of Mary. How can we celebrate our Blessed Mother during this month?
Bishop Vásquez: May is a wonderful month in which we celebrate our Blessed Mother Mary. May is also when we honor all of our mothers on Mother’s Day (May 14). Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, so this is a great opportunity for us to honor her. She said “yes” completely to the will of God and gave herself completely to her Son, Jesus Christ. Mary is the first disciple because she followed Jesus from the beginning; she gave herself to him in service from the very moment of his conception through the Holy Spirit.
It is through Mary that Jesus takes human flesh. Her “yes” to God allowed Jesus to take on flesh and become human like us in all things but sin. Mary also stands as our example of one who cooperated completely, totally with God’s will. We honor her because through her God’s salvation — Jesus Christ –– came into the world.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus at the Cross gave Mary to us as our mother. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’” Thus Jesus commended Mary not only to John, but also to the entire church, and we rejoice because we have such a great Mother who protects us and who loves us as her children.
Any devotion to Our Lady is most appropriate whether it be novenas or praying the holy rosary, which is my personal favorite. The rosary includes all of the mysteries of the lives of Jesus and Mary woven together as one beautiful prayer. As we move through the mysteries of the rosary, we reflect on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and on Mary’s integral role in salvation as she accompanied Jesus on his journey to the Cross. The rosary is not complicated, and it can be prayed alone or as a group. I believe it leads us into deeper meditation on the mysteries of our salvation.
Editor: Do you have a favorite Scripture passage that includes Mary?
Bishop Vásquez: Yes, I do. I find the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38) where the angel is sent to Mary and she says “yes” to God to be a beautiful reminder of how we are called to accept the will of God. We celebrate the feast of the Annunciation on March 25. I also love the Visitation (Lk 39-56), which takes place just after the Annunciation as Mary travels through the hill country of the Holy Land to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. This Scripture passage sums up how we are to live as disciples of the Lord. Once we hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, we are not supposed to keep it for ourselves, rather we are to share it with others. We, like Mary, are missionary disciples. Having heard the Good News, Mary sets out in haste to be with her cousin Elizabeth. That encounter between these two holy women is a sacred moment during which the Holy Spirit is present as the children within their mothers’ wombs move in expressions of joy.
Editor: This May we also celebrate the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima. Tell us more about that appearance.
Bishop Vásquez: In 1917, Our Lady appeared to three children in Portugal at Fatima. The youngsters were taking care of their flocks when she appeared to them and told them to pray, especially for the end of World War I. With her rosary in hand, she encouraged the children to pray the rosary for conversion and for peace in the world and to pray especially through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
An attempt on the life of St. John Paul II was made on May 13, 1981, the anniversary of Mary’s first appearance in Fatima. He later said he would have died had he not bent to examine a picture of Our Lady of Fatima that was held by a young girl in the audience that day in St. Peter’s Square. He attributed his life being spared to the Our Lady of Fatima and his devotion to her grew. During a visit to Fatima in 1982, he said, “The message of Fatima is, in its basic nucleus, a call to conversion and repentance, as in the Gospel.”
It was also at Fatima that the great miracle of the sun took place and was witnessed by the three children and the thousands who were gathered during her final apparition on Oct. 12-13, 1917. I have visited Fatima a few times, and I found the shrine to be a very serene place of prayer. There is definitely a sense of peace, and I left there knowing I not only needed to pray for peace, but also I needed to work for peace.
Editor: Why do you think Mary appears to people like she did at Fatima, Lourdes and Guadalupe?
Bishop Vásquez: Mary appears at very critical moments in history, and in those apparitions she is always calling us to draw closer to her Son, Jesus Christ. She leads us to a deeper love and affection for Jesus. She teaches us as a mother how to love her Son. It is not a sentimental love by any means; it is a deep and profoundly strong love that requires sacrifice and suffering. Through Mary’s example, we follow Jesus and embrace the suffering and the pain that comes with such great love. That is part of who we are as Christians. Mary has appeared to San Juan Diego in the hills of Mexico and to Bernadette in Lourdes, France, and in other places, but always with a similar message of conversion and encouraging us to draw closer to Jesus, her beloved son. I believe that our prayers for the intercession of Mary are most powerful.
Editor: How can Mary help mothers who are struggling?
Bishop Vásquez: Mary is a great source of inspiration and teaching. She was so humble. I often reflect on how young (15 or 16) she was when she became a mother, yet she loved Jesus with such maturity and depth. I encourage all mothers, especially young mothers and single mothers who are struggling, to turn to her in confidence. Mary offers us compassion and love, and she never turns anyone away. She lovingly receives our prayers and presents all of our needs to her Son. Can we go directly to the Lord with our prayers? Yes, we can but it’s always good to come well represented, and who better to represent us than the Mother of our Savior?
Editor: What is your prayer for all mothers during this month of May?
Bishop Vásquez: I pray for all mothers to look to Our Lady and find strength in her so that they can be sources of strength for their families. May our Blessed Mother continue to be close to those who suffer and protect all her children. May Mary strengthen us to be sources of joy, peace and conversion for the world.