“Mondays with Mary” – Six Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on Mary’s Connection to Pentecost

Yesterday we celebrated the great Solemnity of Pentecost – the day we celebrate the birth of the Catholic Church. From this day when the Holy Spirit enkindled the hearts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles, the Church began to grow, and grow rapidly. As the Apostles went out into the world to preach the gospel message to all the nations, the Holy Spirit accompanied them and through his guidance many repented of their sins and were baptized.

Before the day of Pentecost, the Apostles were simple men, afraid for their own lives, but after the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were men of self-sacrifice, strength, and great fortitude. They preached the Gospels even when it was dangerous to do so. In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says,  “Twelve simple, uneducated fisherman revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

Although he did not travel as vastly as his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI brought the Gospel message to the nations and continents during his nearly eight year papacy. However, his understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is thoroughly examined, explained, and taught in his many books and writings.

To celebrate Pentecost this year, here are six quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on Mary and Pentecost –

1. “Since Pentecost is renewed in our time, perhaps taking nothing from the freedom of God the Church should concentrate less on activities and be more dedicated to prayer. The Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy, Bride of the Holy Spirit, teaches us this. This year Pentecost falls on the very last day of May on which the Feast of the Visitation is normally celebrated. That too was a sort of miniature “pentecost” which caused joy and praise to well up in the hearts of Elizabeth and Mary, one barren and the other a virgin, who both became mothers through an extraordinary divine intervention (cf. Lk 1: 41-45).”

2. It would truly be possible to find many examples, less grave but equally symptomatic, in everyday reality. Sacred Scripture reveals to us that the energy capable of moving the world is not an anonymous and blind force but the action of the “Spirit of God… moving over the face of the waters” (Gn 1: 2) at the beginning of the Creation. And Jesus Christ “brought to the earth” not the vital force that already lived in it but the Holy Spirit, that is, the love of God who “renews the face of the earth”, purifying it from evil and setting it free from the dominion of death (cf. Ps 103[104]: 29-30). This pure, essential and personal “fire”, the fire of love, came down upon the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, to make the Church an extension of Christ’s work of renewal.

3. Finally, Mary is a woman who loves…we sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus’ public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother’s hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus’ true hour (Jn 2:4; 13:1). When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (Jn 19:25-27); later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).

4. Prior to the Ascension into Heaven, he ordered them “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (cf. Acts 1: 4-5); that is, he asked them to stay together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised event (cf. Acts 1: 14)…The Church, gathered with Mary as at her birth, today implores:  “Veni, Sancte Spiritus! – Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.

5. If there is no Church without Pentecost, without the Mother of Jesus there is no Pentecost either, since she lived in a singular way what the Church experiences each day under the action of the Holy Spirit. St Chromatius of Aquileia comments in these words on the annotation in the Acts of the Apostles: “so the Church had gathered in the upper room together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. It is therefore impossible to speak of the Church if Mary, Mother of the Lord is not present…The Church of Christ is wherever the Incarnation of Christ by the Virgin is preached, and wherever the Apostles, who are the Lord’s brethren, preach, it is there that the Gospel is heard (Sermo 30, 1: SC 164, 135).

6. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain also today a renewed Pentecost for the Church that will imbue in all, and especially in the young, the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel…With Mary, the Virgin in prayer at Pentecost, let us ask the Almighty for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of unity and harmony, to inspire thoughts of peace and reconciliation in everyone.

Let us pray…Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle us the fire of your love. O Lord, during this week of Pentecost, give us the grace and strength to go forth from our homes and parishes to bring the Gospel message to the world we encounter each day of our lives. And let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was present that day. Amen.

250th “Mondays with Mary” 

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Mary and Pentecost’ with Romano Guardini and Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Throughout the Gospels and the life of Jesus Christ, in those very significant events, we witness the Blessed Virgin Mary playing an integral role. From the Annunciation of Our Lord to the Wedding Feast at Cana to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and even in the feast of Pentecost, after Our Lord had ascended into Heaven, we see the strength of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she faithfully and obediently accepts all that God has designed for her life.

As the Church is born and unfolds on the Pentecost Sunday, Mary in the life of the Church begins to take shape. She is the fundamental figure in the life of the early Church.

For this year’s “Mondays with Mary” focusing on Pentecost, I turn our attention to two great 20th century theologians – Romano Guardini and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. This excerpt comes from the book, Mary For Today, by Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

“Here we should trust ourselves to the wisdom of Romano Guardini:

There must have been something divinely great when by the light of the Spirit everything became clear to her who “kept all these things in her heart”: the context and interconnection of Jesus’ existence were revealed. Throughout the years of Jesus’ public life she had to maintain her confidence in heroic faith: now she received the answer, resplendent, and solving everything.

It is easy to think that she must always have understood the Lord, better than anyone else. Humanly speaking – to the extent that in this context one can talk of the human – without a doubt this was so. Historically no one else was able like her to provide information about him. But on the other side it is not without purpose that the Gospel says that she “did not understand the saying which he spoke to them”. Probably she could just not have borne a real, complete understanding. The way of genuine experience of life lived in faith and love is greater than the anticipation of things which in God’s guidance have their place only later.

To recognize that the child, the boy, the youth, the man who lived in her company was the Son of God in the sense that became manifest after Pentecost would probably have put her in an intolerable situation. That security without which existence as a mother is not possible would have disappeared. Now however God’s mystery can be revealed, to the extent that this is possible on earth.

She does not any longer need any protection against what is too great for human understanding. She is able to carry together in her mind the two statements, ‘He is the Son of the eternal Father’ and ‘He is your son’, without breaking down or merely becoming confused. Indeed, is this unity she recognizes the ineffable content of her vocation.

This description by Guardini of the effect of the Spirit on Mary at Pentecost, when, as innumerable medieval representations of the event portray her, she becomes the center and focus of the Spirit-enlightened Church, does her perfection no harm but rather enables it to be seen as something genuinely human. What is unique about her is the Spirit of Pentecost basically does nothing other than to present to her the content of her own experience as her memory had retained it: a memory that contains all the central dogmas of revelation in their complete unity and interwovenness.”

As we conclude this Easter Season, let us, like Mary, keep the memory strong in our minds of the message of Jesus Christ and our duty in being missionaries to the world we encounter each day. As we stand against those who dislike Jesus Christ and His Church, let us ask Mary for her motherly intercession to always guide us in our words and actions.