By BISHOP JOEL M. KONZEN, SM | Published June 12, 2020 | En Español
The June issue of a magazine for priests, entitled simply “The Priest,” arrived with “Turning to Mary During a Pandemic” as its cover article. Pope Francis, head of our Church, and Archbishop Gomez, episcopal leader of the United States, have done just that—the Holy Father referring frequently to his recourse to the Mother of Our Lord in these times, and Archbishop Gomez leading the nation in a reconsecration of the United States to Mary.
Pope Francis has given us a prayer to use, “Prayer to the Virgin Mary for Protection from Coronavirus.” It is really a short prayer for endurance as well as protection. The protection is sought especially in the latter part of the prayer, which is the ancient “Sub Tuum,” a very brief oration that has long been part of the daily prayer of the Marists, my order, and so many others: “We fly to your patronage, O Holy Mother of God. Despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.”
Even before the onset of COVID-19, some parishes had taken to praying the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel together, seeking strength, protection, and banishment of sin. The “Sub Tuum” can be used in much the same way. It was at our baptism that Mary became our Mother. From that time on, she urged us, moved us toward her son, until we were ready to receive him in the gift of the Holy Eucharist. Over and over, she directs us to him, so that we properly desire and praise his presence and so that she may act as that one so close to him that we can bring any need to her for her intercession with her son.
As I read articles in various Catholic journals and even the secular press during our singular period of confinement, I see two predominant topics coming up. The first is contending with fear of all sorts: fear of the unknown, fear about becoming infected, fear of economic distress, fear of mounting hunger and health needs, fear of social unrest. The second is what is generally being called ‘resilience,’ which is roughly about coming through the moment with strategies for surviving, making the most of this unexpected turn for all in the world, celebrating our commonality as we find our way, and looking to be as undamaged as possible by the whole experience.
Our prayers to Mary often ask for her intervention, her protection, but they always speak or imply our trust in what she can do for us because of who she is in relation to Jesus and because of her universal concern as mother—Mary, Mother of the Church, which we just celebrated liturgically. Also, we recently celebrated the Feast of the Visitation, a scriptural example of the maternal care and friendship that we believe characterizes Mary’s life in the Church. It makes ample sense that we would, during this continuing challenge of sickness and isolation, enlist the support of Mary, our stalwart helper, be that in the rosary, the Litany of Loreto, the First Saturday devotion, the Angelus, the Memorare, the “Hail, Holy Queen,” any of several novenas to the Blessed Mother, or simply in the “Hail Mary” or “Sub Tuum.”
You may have heard the saying, “Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it.” We who live by faith in the greatest triumph, the Resurrection, now seek triumph over any fear or obstacle, and we are confident that Mary’s companionship will aid us personally and as parish families in weathering this semblance of the cross, that sign of suffering and triumph with which she is so familiar.