This past December the cover story of National Geographic was titled “The Most Powerful Woman in the World.” The photograph on the cover of the magazine was taken from a painting, “The Virgin and Child,” by the 15th century artist Sandro Botticelli. It was the face of the Virgin Mary. National Geographic is a distinguished monthly journal with serious articles and first class photographs about topics such as wild life, nature, maps, geography and world cultures. A 20-page article about Mary of Nazareth, whom we call the Mother of God, is unusual for this type of publication.
The editor, Susan Goldberg, explained the decision for the cover story. “What is it about Mary? She is the world’s most depicted woman.“ Goldberg noted that in 2014 the National Museum in Washington, D.C., presented an exhibition of 74 works of art from around the world which drew the largest crowd ever to the museum. The show was titled “Picture Mary, Woman, Mother, Idea.” National Geographic wanted to know what makes Mary so popular to peoples of different cultures, races, languages and even other religions. For example, the Quran, the Muslim holy book, contains 74 references to Mary of Nazareth, more than in the New Testament!
The article written by Maureen Orth was accompanied by beautiful photographs by Diana Markosian. The author and the photographer visited Marian Shrines around the world, such as Lourdes in France, Guadalupe in Mexico, and Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They attended Marian devotions in Poland, Haiti, Egypt and elsewhere.
The article makes no judgements about the devotion of the faithful to the Mother of God or to miracles that are attributed to her. It seems to me that it concludes that there is something about the Mother of God that makes it easier for a believer to find God. Mary makes God more accessible to people. Perhaps, because she is one of us. Truly human, truly woman, truly a Mother. Father Bertrand Buby of Dayton University, an expert in Mariology, says about the Blessed Mother “She is the universal.”
During the month of May, dedicated to Our Lady, many of our parishes and schools conduct Marian devotions. These spiritual exercises encourage us to turn toward her. To go to her. She will take you to Jesus. As we observe the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and pray the Hail Holy Queen, we might reflect on Mary’s title — Mother of Mercy.
To invoke Mary as the Mother of Mercy affirms that she is the Mother of Jesus who, in the words of our Holy Father Francis, is the face of God’s Mercy. Invoking Mary as the Mother of Mercy recognizes that through her intercession on our behalf before her Divine Son she seeks for us the Mercy of God. The Hail Holy Queen petitions Mary to “Turn your eyes of mercy toward us.” In other words, look on us, Mother of God, who need the very mercy you experienced from the grace of God at your Immaculate Conception. Mother of Mercy, kindly look on us who need the mercy of your Son which you witnessed during His earthly ministry in His treatment of the poor, the sick, outcasts and public sinners. Mother of Mercy, help us to be as powerful and loved as you are by being instruments and vehicles of Mercy toward all.
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope!
To you do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve.
To you do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears!
Turn, then, O most gracious Advocate,
your eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this, our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.