Mother of Divine Grace

By: Rev. Paul Scalia

The origins of Mother’s Day seem to have been entirely secular.  And it is always at risk of being overwhelmed by commercialization (if it has not been already).  Nevertheless, we should appreciate the importance of such a day and welcome the opportunity to honor and thank our mothers.  Further, we should situate the day within our faith and welcome the opportunity to honor Mary as Mother.

MarianAnd perhaps the first thing to appreciate is that Mary really is our Mother.  This title is not a fiction…or even a title!  It is a real relationship.  Still, most Catholics probably think of Mary as mother only by analogy — she cares for us as a mother cares for her children, as if she were our mother.  Traditionally it is said that she is our Mother in the order of grace — which to modern ears might as well mean in a make believe world. In fact, when we call her Mother we mean it literally. Just as our mothers cooperated with God’s action in bringing about our natural life, so Mary cooperated with God in bringing about our supernatural life.

The concept of Mary as our Mother is one of the most tender and pleasing in our faith.  It has inspired some of the most beautiful writings, prayers, songs and works of art.  But as is always the case with popular and childlike devotions, it rests on solid theological doctrinal foundations.  Let us not think that speaking of Mary as “Mother” is a weak, childish, or saccharine devotion (no matter how saccharine some may make it seem!).  Such devotion both rests on and guards important truths of our faith.

First, the primacy of grace.  We cannot speak of Mary as Mother without turning our attention to the reality of grace.  She is our Mother only because by grace we are one with her Son. Reborn in Jesus Christ we are children of His Father (Sons in the Son, as the hymn has it) — and of His Mother as well.  In the order of grace does not mean make-believe or fictional.  Grace — that divine assistance that brings us rebirth, adorns the soul with virtues, and brings us to the glory of heaven — is more real than anything else we find in the so-called “real world.”  Strange creatures that we are, with one foot in this world and the other in heaven, we live in two “orders.”  We have what God has made us by nature (man, woman, body, soul, intellect, will, etc.).  We have also what He has made us by His grace: children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature.  To venerate her as Mother — Mother of Divine Grace — means to pay attention to the primacy of grace in our lives.

Second, the Incarnation.  The grace that gives life to our souls comes to us only through the sacred humanity of our Lord.  His human nature is the instrument by which He wins for us every grace.  And He only has that human nature — that instrument of grace — by way of Mary’s motherhood.  In becoming His mother, by bestowing upon Him a human nature, she by extension becomes Mother to all reborn by His grace.  Our devotion to Mary as Mother guards and enhances our love for His sacred humanity.

Third, the Crucifixion. It was on the Cross that our Lord offered the sacrifice of His life and fulfilled the purpose of the Incarnation.  It was on the Cross that He won every grace for us.  It is there, at the source of supernatural life, that Mary unites her will to His.  She is not a bystander but a cooperator.  She had surrendered her humanity so that He could come into the world as man.  Now she assents to the final purpose of His coming: to offer Himself on the Cross.  There she is given to us as Mother: “Woman, behold you son…Behold your mother” (Jn 19:26-27).  Devotion to Mary as Mother should bring us closer to the Cross, where alone we learn the price of our salvation and the extent of God’s love.

That great Marian priest, Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort teaches that Mary destroys all heresies in the world.  But we should not think that she does so by force.  Ever our Mother — more a mother than a queen, as Saint Therese says — she raises us in the faith to be free and immune from heresy.  Devotions, such as that to Mary as Mother, introduce strong solid doctrine into our hearts and minds by way of simple, endearing, childlike means.  This devotion protects us from many errors.  But more importantly, it binds us closer to saving truths, and to the gentle power of Mary, our Mother.

Mother of Divine Grace, pray for us.

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