The sweet name of Mary

Pixabay photo/Dimitris Vetsikas

Michael Pakaluk

Friday, September 11, 2020Spirituality

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The name “Mary” is like this not from the meaning of the word, but because it was borne by this holy and remarkable woman — as if the virtues of the woman are reflected in the name, and by merely saying the same with reference, we receive graces to be like her.


”May this appeal of mine not go unheard!”

Thus wrote the sainted Pope John Paul II in 2002, near the end of his apostolic letter on the rosary. “I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and the elderly, and to you, young people, confidently take up the rosary once again.”

Has this plea gone unheard?

“Rediscover the rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives,” he added. Are we doing so now, almost 20 years later? Have I acquired the good habit of praying the rosary daily? Does my family do so?

These are good questions to consider once again, as we approach October, the Month of the Rosary in Catholic piety. As if to prepare us, the Church places two important Marian celebrations in September: The Nativity (Birthday) of Mary on Sept. 8, reasonably, nine months after the celebration of Mary’s Immaculate Conception; and then on Sept. 12, the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary.

St. Pope John Paul II had a particular devotion to the name of Mary and ends his apostolic letter with a prayer of Blessed Bartolomo Longo: “O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you. You will be our comfort in the hour of death: yours our final kiss as life ebbs away. And the last word from our lips will be your sweet name.”

Blessed Bartolomo is an interesting teacher for our times. When he was a young man, some atheistic lectures by a philosophy professor led him away from the faith and made him hostile to the Church. He immersed himself in the occult and even became a Satanist priest. But led by Dominicans back to the faith, he spent his mature life promoting the rosary. He is essentially our contemporary, as he died in 1926.

This prayer of Blessed Bartolomo, that he be given the grace that his final word be the name, “Mary!” echoes a prayer of St. Germanus, “Dei matris nomen sit mihi ultimus linguae loquentis motus,” “May the name of the Mother of God be for me the last movement of my tongue!” St. Alphonsus Liguori prayed the same, “Let us pray, then, my devout reader, let us pray God to grant us this grace, that the last word we pronounce at death may be the name of Mary.”

The official reports of Pope John Paul II’s death say that his final words were “Let me go to the house of my father.” A nun who was by his bedside reported, “Let me go to the Lord.” And yet he said these things several hours before he actually passed. I prefer to believe that his prayer was granted.

The traditional Catholic “Prayers for a Happy Death” contain this petition: “Let me die, like the glorious St. Joseph, in the arms of Jesus and Mary, repeating in turn each of these sweet names which I hope to bless throughout eternity.” Yes, the name of Jesus comes first, but then the second spoken is the last word.

Jesus himself invoked Mary from the cross. It was apparently his custom to refer to Mary as “My Lady” (sometimes translated, literally but perhaps too brusquely, as “Woman”). According to St. John’s Gospel, he saw his mother standing at the foot of the cross, and “the disciple whom he loved,” and said, “My lady, here is your son.” It’s not quite the Most Holy Name of Mary, true, but something greater than a name, for someone who had the relation of son. Also, they were not his last words. And yet in conferring Mary to John as John’s mother, he did the same for us, as if to teach us to call upon her also, at the time of our death.

St. Bonaventure, in his “Speculum” or “Mirror of the Blessed Virgin,” devotes two opening chapters to the name of Mary. In the first, he considers everything bound up in the four, traditionally recognized interpretations — Bitter Sea, Star of the Sea, Lady, and Source of Light. He says in summary, “Mary is a bitter sea to demons; to men she is a star of the sea; to the angels she is illuminatrix; and to all creatures she is lady.”

In most cultures someone’s name has been taken to express his nature or distinctive character. (Our culture is almost unique in taking names to be mere sounds attached to things.) So, in a following chapter, St. Bonaventure discusses how the remarkable virtues of Mary are all contained in her name. “The name of Mary,” he says, not simply Mary, “is free from all vice and resplendent with every virtue.”

The name “Mary” is like this not from the meaning of the word, but because it was borne by this holy and remarkable woman — as if the virtues of the woman are reflected in the name, and by merely saying the same with reference, we receive graces to be like her.

To this end, he quotes a prayer of St. Bernard, “May Jesus Christ, thy son, bestow the gifts of his grace on thy servants, who invoke the sweet name of Mary.”

– Michael Pakaluk, an Aristotle scholar and Ordinarius of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, is a professor in the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America. He lives in Hyattsville, MD, with his wife Catherine, also a professor at the Busch School, and their eight children. His latest book, on the Gospel of Mark, is “The Memoirs of St Peter.” His next book,”Mary’s Voice in the Gospel of John,” is forthcoming from Regnery Gateway.

Emergencies Make Awful Law: Why are Casinos Treated More Favorably than Churches During a Pandemic?

[T]he government may not discriminate against religion in general or any particular religion in particular. It need not exempt religious institutions or practitioners from rules that are generally applicable to similarly situated institutions or

Source: Emergencies Make Awful Law: Why are Casinos Treated More Favorably than Churches During a Pandemic?

“The Present World Has Been Sold a Bill of Goods That Leads to Darkness”

The Catholic Answers Insider recently sat down for an interview with Bishop Joseph Strickland to discuss his new book, Light and Leaven.

Q. The Church finds itself in—as much as I hate to use the term—unprecedented times, maybe more so than the rest of the world. How do we cope, and thrive, when it seems as Catholics we’re under attack both on a worldly level and a spiritual level?

A. What comes to mind is Jesus’ words: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). Sobering words certainly, but consoling as well, if we keep Christ in front of us. All that we know of Jesus Christ remains as true today as it did the day before the shadow of Covid-19 invaded our lives. I know it sounds simplistic, but sometimes it is simple.  Jesus saves us, and following him takes us to life everlasting. There is no other way.

Q. As an evangelistic people, how do we present the Faith to the younger generation, who it seems has embraced either atheism, agnosticism, or not believing in anything (i.e., the “Nones”)?

A. Once again, I believe it is all about Jesus. We have to encourage everyone, young and old, to come to know him more intimately. In a sense, the way young people have reacted to the Faith is natural and laudable. The young instinctively gravitate to the true, the beautiful, and the authentic. Too much of the Church and the world is lacking these positive qualities. Young people see corruption, lies, and fakery, and they reject it. What my generation coasted on because “that is what we do” has fallen short for young people. Sadly, they are looking down blind alleys for answers. All in the Church, young and old, lay and clergy, need to be intimately close to Jesus. That is where we start: with our own relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior.

  Q. It seems as though many have gone out of their way to erase the Imago Dei or image of God from their very being, be it through tattoos, body disfigurement, gender confusion, and any number of things that people do to alter their essence. Why is this happening, and how do we dialogue with a culture intent on distancing itself from God?

A. What you lament seems to be at the very heart of the confusion and self-destruction in which we are caught up. It is no wonder that suicides are rampant, because in a sense the culture is collectively committing suicide. The present world has been sold a bill of goods that leads to darkness. As much as humanity wants to reject the idea that we are created in the image and likeness of God, the fact is that we are. If we collectively decide God doesn’t exist, then we have no idea who we are, and this leads to despair. It is as if we are spoiled children who just don’t want reality to be reality. Thankfully, many reject this and do seek God, but the prevailing culture shouts us down. I believe the best antidote is to root ourselves more deeply in what we know is true and continue to seek to live as those created by a loving God in his image and likeness