by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
This past summer, I was returning to Kansas City on Southwest Airlines from the June U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in south Florida.
I was fortunate to be in the A group and was lined up according to my boarding pass number waiting for the boarding process to begin. A woman approached, asking me if I was a Catholic priest from Kansas City. I introduced myself as the Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas and shared with her that I had been attending the USCCB meeting.
The woman lived in Kansas and had been in Florida to assist her mother with the care of her stepfather who was gravely ill. She lamented that her daughter and her son-in-law were attending an evangelical Protestant church. She shared with me her great devotion for Mary and was upset that her grandchildren were not being taught about Mary, much less encouraged to develop a devotion to Our Blessed Mother.
She shared with me how in both her personal and professional life she sought the intercession of Mary to guide her with important decisions. She proclaimed with gratitude that Mary never failed her. She referred to Our Blessed Mother, with great devotion, as “Mama Mary.”
The woman had a rather commanding voice. At one moment, she inquired of me with the vocal volume that made it impossible for everyone in the A group not to hear: “Why don’t these Protestants love Mary? How can they be so foolish as not to seek Mama Mary’s help?” It seemed all eyes and ears were watching and listening for my reply. I felt like the fate of ecumenical relations with many of my co-passengers depended on my response.
I counseled her: “Mary always leads us to her Son, Jesus. Mama Mary’s greatest desire is for us to come to know and love Jesus.”
I reassured her that at this evangelical church her grandchildren were learning about Jesus and hopefully developing a friendship with Our Lord. I challenged her that part of her mission as their grandmother was to witness to them how important a spiritual friend Mama Mary was for her. She certainly seemed up to the task.
About this time, the boarding process began. I told the woman that I would pray for her and her daughter and grandchildren.
With Southwest’s open seating policy, my Marian friend sat right next to me. For the next couple hours, I learned why this woman had such a profound and authentic devotion to Mama Mary.
She had many inspiring and edifying stories of how Mama Mary had come through for her time and again. During her stay in Florida, Mary had come through big time.
My Marian friend told me that her stepfather was very sick. She and her mother were convinced that he needed to be admitted to a particular care facility. However, their request for him to be admitted had been denied. They were told it would be months before he would be considered for admission.
Her stepfather was due to be discharged from the hospital at 3 p.m. the next day. Her mother could not care for him at their home, so they were scrambling to find an appropriate place to meet the man’s medical needs.
My friend informed her mother and her sister that she was praying to Mama Mary that the door be opened for him to be admitted by 3 p.m. the next day to their preferred treatment center. Meanwhile, they were making arrangements for his admission at another facility.
At precisely 3 p.m. the next day, while leaving the hospital and taking the sick man to the plan B facility, they receive a call informing them that her stepfather had been inexplicably accepted at their preferred treatment center.
My Marian friend was thrilled that her stepfather would receive the care he needs, but even more excited that the timing of her answered prayer made believers of her mother and sister in the power of Mama Mary.
I am edified by the beautiful devotion to Mary that is evident by so many in our archdiocese. I am particularly grateful for those that have consecrated and, in many cases, reconsecrated themselves to Jesus through Mary.
Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the primary patroness of our archdiocese. I encourage everyone to join me in invoking the intercession of our Blessed Mother for the healing and renewal of the church during these difficult days.
Let us place ourselves under the protective mantle of Mary during these turbulent times within our church.
On Sunday, Oct. 7, at 2 p.m. at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish (7023 W. 71st St. in Overland Park) and at 7 p.m. at Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish (3601 S.W. 17th St. in Topeka) there will be a prayer service that will include eucharistic adoration, the public praying of the rosary, and a catechesis by Mike Scherschligt, applying the messages of Marian apparitions to the events of our day.
These liturgies will be particularly focused on prayers for healing for those who have been wounded by priests or other representatives of the church, as well as for wisdom for the Holy Father, me and my brother bishops, as we strive to take the actions necessary for healing, renewal and reform within the church.
October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. It was on Oct. 7, 1571, that the Christian fleet, though greatly outnumbered, won an unexpected victory over an Ottoman armada that threatened Italy and Western Europe.
We need to ask Mary to petition her Son to protect the church — not so much from external enemies, but from the internal forces of evil that have far greater capability to weaken and debilitate the church.
If you are not able to join us for one of these prayer services, I ask you to pray a rosary on Oct. 7 for healing of victims of abuse and renewal within the church.
For those who can, please come on Oct. 7 either to Queen of the Holy Rosary or Most Pure Heart of Mary.
Together, let us implore Mama Mary to give me and my brother bishops the wisdom and courage to take the necessary steps to facilitate healing and renewal within the church.