Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Mary: Mother most chaste, Virgin most holy

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Two weeks ago I went to St. John, Ind., to help dedicate the permanent shrine to Our Lady of the New Millennium (see photos in the Summer Guide, Page 5a). In the last decade, this great statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary has stopped at over 300 of our parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago and some in the Diocese of Joliet as well. Everywhere, the statue’s presence was the occasion for a renewed devotion to the Mother of God.

We all have reason to be most grateful to the late Carl Demma, whose faithfilled persistence created the statue, and to his wife, Francine, who supervised the statue’s travels and looked for a permanent home for it. She found a home for Mary in a parish that is a place of permanent pilgrimage, where Jesus’ Way of the Cross is beautifully designed. It all came together in St. John the Evangelist Parish. There, Bishop Dale Melczek of Gary, during a ceremony that included the public praying of the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, consecrated the Diocese of Gary to Mary Immaculate.

Devotion to Christ’s mother and ours is strong in the hearts of those who believe in Jesus as Savior of the world and head of his Body, the church. His mother is ours, as members of his Body. Because of Mary we recognize more easily that the church is not a club but a family. We go to Mary because mothers protect their children, and we need her help.

We pray to Mary, in her litany, as “Mother most chaste.” Today, many mothers worry about protecting the chastity of their children, because they know that a life of sexual promiscuity prevents young people from growing in love and creates habits that make friendship and marriage more difficult and discipleship in the church nearly impossible. Undirected sexual energy leaves a young man or woman with a divided heart.

One of the great obstacles to sexual maturity today is the growth of the pornography industry and the easy availability of pornography through the Internet. Tragically, this phenomenon has been a growing part of social life since the beginning of the new millennium. Addiction to pornography starts with small steps, but each step contributes to a loss of innocence and the eventual destruction of marriages and family life. Often, as we have discovered when examining the cases of sexual abuse of young people by some priests and others, pornography sets the stage for criminal sexual advances. In its pornographic portrayal, sexual activity is not an expression of self-sacrificing love; instead, sex is trivialized and eventually loses all human significance.

Human sexuality reduced to an animal function destroys the foundations for human relationships. Friendship, inside or outside of marriage, lifts our spirit because in it we have a relationship that is not based on private pleasure or selfish utility but on the mutual good between friends. A friend wants always what is best for his or her friend. A friend never uses his or her friend. A friend finds in his or her friend a companion in the achievement of what is genuinely good for both of them. Friendship requires virtue, the ability to work habitually for the good of another. A friend helps his or her friend to become their best self, and vice versa. A friendship based on genuine love lasts beyond this life and is a gift for all eternity. Friendship with God assures us that we are never alone.

Sexual promiscuity is incompatible with this sort of other-directed life. Parents know this and, in training their children in virtue, they are finding many ways to block pornography at home. Its pervasive presence in our public life, however, continues to deaden many to its danger. Frequenting the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion creates spiritual protection, as does prayer to Mary, Mother most chaste.

In the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we also call her “Virgin most holy.” The spirit of holiness in the church is the Holy Spirit of God, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. We are praying these days before the feast of Pentecost for the coming of the Holy Spirit in force, as he came 2,000 years ago upon the Blessed Virgin Mary gathered with the 12 apostles in Jerusalem. Mary conceived Jesus, her divine Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit; she is the Spirit’s spouse, full of grace, the holiest of human persons.

The church, the Body of the risen Christ, was born with the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The church will be renewed only through the power of the Holy Spirit today. Mary was present at the first Pentecost and she will be present at Pentecost 2011. She is Mother most chaste, Virgin most holy and Mother of the Church. With the help of her prayers, we can confidently hope for a renewal of evangelical zeal in our parishes and a strengthening of the bonds of friendship and love among his disciples in the church.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago