Fr. Benedict J. Grosechel, CFR
Authentic devotion to Mary … constitutes a special instrument for nourishing loving communion in the family and for developing conjugal and family spirituality. For she who is the Mother of Christ and of the Church is in a special way, the Mother of Christian families, of domestic Churches.
~Pope John Paul II Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, 1981
The Marian title, “Queen of Families” was inserted into the Litany of Loreto in 1995 by no less an authority than Pope John Paul II himself. Many have called him the “Pope of the Family” due to the immense impact that he had in strengthening the Church’s teaching on the critical issues of human life, marriage, and the family. The Holy Father was heroic in re-affirming the blessings of marriage and family in an era when these institutions are so much under attack, but more importantly, he knew what love Mother Mary has for family life and he wanted her to be honored under this title.
Perhaps the whole of the Church’s teaching about marriage and family can be summed up in the title, “Queen of Families.” If we reflect a few moments on Mary’s vocation, we will see that Mary is never detached from family. She said “Yes” to the angel Gabriel in consenting to be the mother of the Messiah, she and Joseph both said “Yes” to a marriage that would create the family in which Our Lord would grow and develop, and together they said “Yes” to all the sacrificial commitment to parenthood which entailed the stigma of being pregnant before her official marriage (Mt 1:18-25), the traumatic midnight departure into Egypt (Mt 2:13-15), their quiet family life in Nazareth (Mt 2:22), and even Mary’s final vigil with Jesus under the wood of the Cross (Jn 19: 50-51). Mary’s calling was stamped with the emblem of fidelity to God’s plan as wife and mother, and that does not even take into account the larger vocation to spiritual motherhood that she exercises for the Church from heaven.
Mary understands the hardships of family life in the modern age for even though her external circumstances were different, the dynamics of parenthood are remarkably similar in every age. Mary knew the stress of poverty and a harsh political environment. She was an immigrant and lived in exile in a foreign country. She also knew the drudgery of daily existence in keeping house and home together as well as problems with pregnancy and family relationships and the many challenges of being part of a small community. Mary certainly has the capacity to reign over our families as Queen in the modern age—if we let her.
I am sure that Mary also helps foster vocations in the family if the parents pray for their children to know God’s plan for their lives. I can honestly say that my own parents must have prayed to Our Lady for my vocation because, while they never explicitly told me that they were doing so, it became very clear to me at a very early age that I was supposed to be a priest, and I could only have come to that clarity by some outside force influencing me in the right direction. I am sure Our Lady had a very strong hand in getting me into the Capuchin Order and later in directing me to found the Friars of the Renewal which just celebrated its 25th anniversary as an order. I never could have pulled off such a thing on my own!
Mary is also a healer of families that are broken down by division, pain, and suffering. She has a special care for families in trouble and brings a unifying influence into families that are coming apart. I don’t think that she could ever neglect a family that turned to her in their need, no matter how desperate. If we believe the famous motto: “the family that prays together stays together,” then certainly the family that invites her into their problems will experience some unifying effect by her presence. We have only to believe it and entrust ourselves to Mary on a regular basis, and the fruits of prayer will be evident.
I would finally note that Mary is the Queen of the modern day pro-life movement which is really an effort to safeguard the sanctity of families as well as individual human lives. Mary helps to dissipate the fear of those facing difficult pregnancies or trying to providing for their families under difficult circumstances. She is the Mother and Queen of the largest of all families: God’s family, the Church! Mary could be called the first pro-life warrior on the battlefield against the culture of death because she is the gracious lover of all God’s precious children, born and unborn.
Today let us take Mary into our homes in a very special way, enthrone her image in the heart of our family, consecrate our loved ones to her, and call on her in any need whatsoever. There is nothing that we can ask of the Mother of the Holy Family, the “Queen of Families,” that she will not grant us when asked with tenderhearted devotion.
Dearest Mother of the Holy Family and blessed Mother of our own families, keep us strong and faithful in the face of the many challenges to family life in the modern age. Let us always feel your loving presence in the heart of our homes and bind us more closely together in love. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Lord of our families forever and ever. Amen.
[Excerpted from: Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Jesus and Mary: In Praise of their Glorious Names, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.: Huntington, Indiana, 2012.]