Archbishop Leonard P. Blair
As I grow older and look back at my life, like all of us, I have much for which to be grateful. I realize just how blessed I have been with the opportunities that have been given to me by the Church from my seminary days until now, including the years I lived in Rome. I have had many opportunities to experience different countries and languages. And any Catholic who travels broadly will know just how universal our Catholic Church is, and how it is possible to be at Mass or a shrine overseas and to feel at home spiritually with people of different lands and nations.
Our unifying bond, of course, is the Lordship of Jesus and our membership in his body by faith and baptism. But inseparably linked to this is the motherhood of Mary and her unique and abiding role in the mystery of salvation. When Jesus said “behold your mother” to the beloved disciple John at the foot of the cross, his words were meant not for John alone, but for every disciple until the end of time. And so wherever the Church is in the world, Mary is venerated under various titles of honor and devotion.
At the Annunciation, Mary became the mother of the Incarnate Word and gave him human flesh. Now we are the members of Christ’s body and we receive his flesh and blood in the holy Eucharist. It is the same body and blood Mary gave him that we now share. Spiritually, therefore, she is our mother, too, in the most profound, salvific and intimate way imaginable.
At the beginning of her son’s public ministry at the wedding feast at Cana, Mary pointed to him and said: “Do whatever he tells you.” And after he had ascended into heaven, she was with the apostles in the Upper Room before Pentecost, imploring the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. This same fervent prayer on her part is at work today and until the end of time. St. Louis de Montfort wrote, “[I]t is through Mary that the salvation of the world began, and it is through Mary that it must be consummated.” Who better than she can show us the way to live a life in the Holy Spirit, a life of faith, hope and love?
During the five years I worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State, I and some other American priests offered daily morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. One of the altars we used was adorned with an image of Mary with the Latin inscription Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church). It had been erected by Blessed (soon to be Saint) Pope Paul VI, who had officially bestowed this title upon Mary in 1964 during the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis has now designated the Monday after Pentecost Sunday as a liturgical memorial in honor of “Mary, Mother of the Church” to be observed annually at the Masses celebrated on that day.
As archbishop of Hartford, I have been renewing annually the consecration of our archdiocese to Mary by offering a public “prayer of entrustment,” at the ordination liturgy for our new priests, and I will do so again on June 23 this year. However, I am eager to have as many people as possible join me in reciting this prayer, which I also say privately every day. I offer it to the faithful of the archdiocese in the hope that as we face the opportunities and the challenges of missionary discipleship in our time, we may be protected from evil and strengthened in the practice of our faith at the intercession of the Mother of God.