Fr. Rich Jones: Our Lady is our help

By Father Richard S. Jones

Chaplain, UPMC Mercy Hospital

While I have not yet mastered all the names of the new parishes throughout our diocese, one thing stands out to me. Thus far, 10 names honor the Blessed Virgin Mary: Mary, Queen of Saints; Our Lady of the Valley; Our Lady of Hope; Our Lady of Consolation; Our Lady Help of Christians; Our Lady of Mount Carmel; Our Lady of the Lakes; Mary, Queen of Peace; Mary, Mother of God; and Immaculate Heart of Mary (in the Shrines of Pittsburgh).

Thus, Mary is a pervasive presence in the reorganized landscape of our diocese. The number of parishes under her patronage is a testimony to the influence she has upon our faith pilgrimage.  Mary’s “job description” of duties in the Church is quite extensive—Refuge of Sinners, Health of the Sick, Comforter of the Afflicted, Gate of Heaven, Perpetual Help and Star of the Sea are just a few.

The Church dedicates October to the Rosary because the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary originated in thanksgiving for Mary’s answer to the many rosaries prayed for the victory of a Catholic naval coalition over the invading Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. In 1716, Pope Clement XI made it a feast of general thanksgiving for Mary’s prayers on everyone’s behalf.

Mary was present when the Church was founded, praying for it to carry out the mission her Son entrusted to it. Mary, the mother of the Church, intercedes and prays with us and for us.  “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brother.” (Acts 1:14)

Mary is our mother and model prayer companion. St. Padre Pio said, “The rosary is like a great sword that Mary puts into the hands of her children to defend themselves against the evil one.”  As we engage in spiritual warfare in a world filled with distraction, agitation and impatience, the rosary overcomes evil with calm, gentleness, and patience.

I grew up in a home where it might have been an easy choice to abandon the rosary. My mother was Catholic , my father was Presbyterian, and there were seven of us kids.  Dad would often say, “It was two faiths, but one love.”  Through love, my parents made Mary present in our home. We thought we had the best of both worlds as our family read the Bible each night and prayed the rosary.

 Together, those devotions were a “dynamic duo” in our faith development and formation.  Another was our pastor, Father Thomas F. Carey at Saints Simon and Jude Church. I can still envision him in his black cassock that had large black rosary beads fastened at his waist, which he wore at hospital visits, school sporting events, when blessing a home, or burying the dead. One could never forget how devoutly, reverently and prayerfully Father Carey said the rosary—with trust, with wonder, and with love.

He was truly passionate about Marian devotion, holding leadership positions in both the diocesan Blue Army and the Legion of Mary. Every week, he led us in the rosary after daily Mass. Father Carey often said, “If your birds are going to fly right in life, Mary must lead and direct your course.”

Praying the rosary helps us to meditate on the truths of the Gospel. It directs us to live out more fully the graces of the joyful (grateful), sorrowful (suffering), luminous (revealing), and glorious (worshipful) mysteries of Mary and Jesus. The rosary shapes our mind, heart, will, emotions, spirit, and soul. It conforms us ever more closely to Christ and His Mother through a kind of training in holiness.

The rosary is easy to learn to pray as a child, but it takes an entire lifetime to experience its riches. It is a powerful prayer of intercession, whether our intentions are as great as someone’s conversion or as simple as doing a chore.

In my duties as hospital chaplain at UMPC Mercy, I see many people in and near their final hours. This fills me with gratitude for the volunteers who generously make the rosaries for our patients and their families. As they gather around the bed praying, the rosary is medicine for the soul, the lifeline to heaven!

No matter how many times we have prayed the Hail Mary, it never gets old — “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”