Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Conference Reflects On Mary And The Eucharist

Published March 25, 2004

The sixth annual Archdiocesan Marian Conference with the theme “Mary, Woman of the Eucharist” was held on Feb. 20-21 at St. Benedict’s Church.

Attended by approximately 200 people and sponsored by the Marian Servants of the Blessed Trinity, the conference opened with Mass celebrated by Archbishop John F. Donoghue on Feb. 20. The theme was the profound relationship between the Eucharist and the church, and Mary’s place as Mother of the Church.

The conference speakers were Father Bill Henry of St. Alphonsus Church in the Diocese of Jackson, Miss., a priest for 19 years, who has been active in the charismatic renewal for many years and is currently the liaison for the renewal in his diocese, and Patti Gallagher Mansfield, a conference speaker, and author of four books. Mansfield, who lives in New Orleans, participated in the now famous “Duquesne Weekend” in February 1967, a student retreat at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, which marked the beginning of the charismatic renewal in the Catholic Church.

The archbishop began his homily by addressing the need to contemplate Christ’s suffering so Christians can know how Jesus won their redemption and the depth of their own sin; this will lead them to a sense of contrite repentance acceptable to God. It is “through the school of Mary’s pierced heart” that they can begin to understand the sorrow through which their joy was purchased, he said. She is not a static model to be studied or analyzed, he continued, but the Mother of God who reveals the truth. At every recorded moment of Mary’s life, he noted, God chose her as a channel through which his eternal love and mercy for mankind could flow more abundantly.

“When she says her first fiat, the Incarnation takes place; when she says, ‘Do whatever He tells you,’ Christ’s ministry begins. Now, at the end of His life, He enfolds her into the embrace of His apostles and entrusts them to love one another as He has loved them . . . With these events God Himself takes into His arms and hands the arms and hands of Mary and stretches them out to welcome the world, presenting her as the model from whom we might learn,” said the archbishop.

“We see best when we see through Mary’s eyes—especially her eyes as they focus on the suffering of mankind’s last hope. Her vision is our best school—a school where she teaches the curriculum of life, the word of truth, the discipline of love, and graduation into the mystery of the Eucharist: her Son’s eternal love.”

The archbishop said when Christ entrusted Mary to John at the crucifixion, this was the beginning of Mary’s role as Mother of the Church. Quoting Pope John Paul II, he encouraged people to “contemplate the face of Christ and contemplate it with Mary.”

“Our Lady, clothed with the sun and crowned with the stars, is our navigation . . . Her eyes are fixed on the distant horizon and she sees the shore to which we are bound . . . Her heart is with her captain, her Son, and towards Him she turns us with our clouded minds, our stubborn wills, and our fearful hearts—and she lightens our way as she tells us, ‘Do whatever He tells you,’” the archbishop said. “This Mass . . . must be the occasion of our rededication to following the lead of Mary . . . if we are to bring a message of hope to a most darkened world.”

As the conference continued Feb. 21, Father Henry spoke of the example of Mary. He told the congregation that they too must learn to surrender, be obedient and accept the will of God in their lives. “At the altar, we are to surrender our all to God as He takes what we give Him and gives us back Himself in the Eucharist.”

He called Mary “a woman of the Eucharist her whole life.”

“The Eucharist is a mystery of faith (which) calls for sheer abandonment to the word of God . . . Who then, better than Mary, the Mother of God, can act as our guide in acquiring that disposition,” he said. “With the same maternal concern which she showed at the wedding feast at Cana, Mary seems to be saying to us, ‘Do not waver, trust in the words of My Son. If He could change water into wine, He is also able to change bread and wine into His body and blood . . . becoming the living bread of life.”

Mary was humble, he said, and in her Magnificat, God exalts Mary’s humility.

“Pride will block us from being holy, from seeing with the eyes of faith the mysteries we have been given,” Father Henry said. “With all she suffered, Mary remained faithful. She drew her strength from the Lord. There is a great temptation to draw our strength from ourselves instead of God. But God has given us the very gift of Himself to help us—in the gift of the Eucharist.”

In a series of talks, Mansfield described how her relationship with Mary has carried her through the years, and she said every major grace in her life has been received in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The pope has “given us” three ways of contemplating Christ, Mansfield said: contemplating Christ’s humanity, contemplating him as the Man of Sorrows and contemplating the risen Christ.

Reflecting upon the suffering Jesus endured for humanity helps us, she said. “Then our troubles will not seem so great, and when sorrow comes our way, we will be able to unite our sufferings with him and turn them into redemptive suffering.”

The risen Christ must also be contemplated, by seeing Jesus in other people, by encountering him in Scripture, which is the living word of God, and through the Eucharist, whether at Mass, or in adoration or by just sitting before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.

In the Eucharist, she said, Jesus is small and Jesus is broken and we receive Him into our very selves. “We are saved not by a formula, but by a person,” she said.

In her third talk, encouraging participants to expect God to touch their hearts and their lives, she described the pivotal point in her life that occurred at the 1967 retreat when she let her guard down and surrendered to the Holy Spirit. This surrender imitated Mary’s surrender, not only in the Incarnation but also in the upper room.

Pope John Paul II stated, “Mary was in the upper room not only to encourage the disciples, not only to teach them how to pray, but to wait with the others. Mary herself needed a new visitation of the Holy Spirit! At the foot of the cross, Jesus stretched her maternal heart to embrace everyone of every time with the words, ‘Son, behold your mother.’ She needed a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit to correspond to her new role as spiritual mother of all humankind.”

Mansfield said, “If the Holy Father is telling us that the Mother of God needed a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, then we, too, should welcome a new visitation every day.”

She also spoke of how she struggled with fear that her relationship with Mary would take away from her relationship with Jesus. She said, however, that her experience has been that Mary always leads her to Jesus. In reading about the pope, she said, she realized that he dealt with the same issue and made a consecration prayer to Jesus through Mary after he reconciled this same point when reading “True Devotion to Mary” by St. Louis de Montfort. He realized not only would true devotion to Mary not threaten his relationship with Jesus, but would actually secure it.

She stated that though many have not known the “tender love of a good earthly mother” because of sin and brokenness, Mary can “bridge that gap.” All needs and concerns are important “to this good Mother and we can safely entrust everything to her,” she said.

The day concluded as it had begun, centered on the Eucharist. Father Henry carried the Eucharist in procession, blessing each person in the gathering and asking Jesus to touch and heal them.

The blessing given by Father Henry was a reminder to all present how the Lord desires to truly bless and heal all his people.

Cheryl Curtis, a member of the Marian Servants of the Blessed Trinity and of St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell, believes that the conference served to refresh and renew people in their devotion to the Eucharist and their appreciation of the gift of Christ’s true presence.

The event also fostered greater devotion to Mary. “The speakers, including the archbishop, really spoke strongly of Mary as our Mother who leads us to her Son in a very profound way, and we can rest assured that we’re not going to be led astray if we entrust ourselves to her.”

As she developed a personal devotion to Mary over the last decade, Curtis has found that it has led her, and many others she’s known, to a greater longing to experience Jesus Christ in adoration and in daily Mass. The Marian Servants group also leads her to Christ. At their bimonthly meetings, the group focuses on Christ’s call to holiness and obedience and on staying close to the sacraments and the church.