By Monsignor Charles Mangan
Several titles from the Litany of Loreto (or Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary) leap out at us during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Lady is the Virgin most merciful, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted and Help of Christians.
These five powerful ways to refer to Mary teach us many truths. She looks upon our misery with compassion, restores vigor to the ill, welcomes home those who have turned their backs against her Son, brings solace to the overburdened, and supports those who love and follow Christ.
Our Lady is concerned about the wellness of the whole person—body, mind and spirit. She accepts the maternal duty, given to her by God, to help us, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. And we have a corresponding duty to ask her, whom the faithful have urgently invoked for centuries, to do what she does—lead us to her Son, the sure and only remedy for all our needs.
Mary’s grace-filled relationship with her Son makes this possible—and desirable. We want to be forgiven, healed, embraced, consoled and aided. We wish to be made whole and prepared for Paradise. She assists us and presents us to the Risen Lord.
Her indescribable kindness to us is a pattern for our own outreach to our neighbors. The Church summons us, in imitation of Our Lady, to be merciful. During the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy a few years ago, Pope Francis reminded us that we should not try to be merciful to others unless we first acknowledge that God has treated us with His unfathomable mercy.
To be merciful is our serious obligation in charity and justice. The words of Saint Paul spring to mind: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:9-13)
The Easter season and the month of May find us honoring the Ever-Virgin, especially by praying the holy rosary, particularly the glorious mysteries, meditating on the Litany of Loreto and chanting or reciting the Regina Caeli—“Queen of Heaven, rejoice. Alleluia.”
To venerate the Mother is to adore and obey the Son. How the Mother of God delights in our single-hearted following of Jesus. In The Virgin Mary (page 44), Father Raymond de Thomas de Saint-Laurent (1879-1949) repeats an oft-quoted story regarding Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, abbot and doctor of the Church (1090-1153):
Saint Bernard habitually greeted a statue of the Madonna in his monastery. Each time he passed by he recited a Hail Mary. A legend says that one day the statue came to life and Our Lady’s face lit up with a smile. She graciously inclined her head to the saint and said, “And I greet you, Bernard.”
Our Lady exults in our fidelity to Christ. We are truer disciples of Jesus by becoming better sons and daughters of His Mother.
God willing, the current pestilence will pass soon but, we hope, not before we have sincerely begged Our Blessed Mother—the Virgin most merciful, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted and Help of Christians—to pray for us and all the victims of COVID-19 and their loved ones. Let us do all that we can to be merciful by comforting the sick and dying and encouraging their families as we thank Jesus through Mary for the supernatural strength that comes to us.