by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
In recent years, superhero warrior women have become a trend in popular culture.
In movies, we are frequently presented with fictional heroines, expert in the martial arts, who can beat to a pulp any male adversary.
It is not unusual to have women depicted as cold assassins, unfazed by blood and violence. One definitely does not want to provoke one of these female super- heroes. You want these wonder women on your side.
Several weeks ago, I heard an interview of Dr. Edward Sri on Catholic Radio. Sri was a theology professor at Benedictine College. More recently, he has been a member of the faculty for the Augustine Institute graduate theology program in Denver.
Currently, Dr. Sri serves as vice president of formation for FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). He is also a renowned Marian scholar.
In the interview, Dr. Sri observed that during Mary’s visitation of her cousin, Elizabeth — under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit — declares Mary “most blessed are you among women” (Lk 1:42). Sri noted that a similar designation was given to two other women in the Old Testament — Judith and Jael.
Judith was a widow who was renowned for her beauty, wisdom and virtue. The Assyrian army under the leadership of Holofernes was poised to defeat the Jews and capture their cities.
Judith goes to the enemy camp of Holofernes under the pretext of betraying her own people. She beguiles Holofernes with her beauty and entices him to become intoxicated. While he is in a drunken stupor, she cuts off his head with his own sword.
As a result, the Jewish army attacks and routs the Assyrian soldiers, who, when they discover their general is dead, flee in panic.
Uzziah, one of the leading men of the Jewish community, declares to Judith: “Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies” (Jdt 13:18).
In the Book of Judges, the Israelites — because of their infidelities to their covenant with God — suffer under the oppression of the Canaanite King Jabin.
The general of Jabin’s army is Sisera. At this time, a woman, Deborah, is the judge of Israel. She instructs the Israelite military leader Barak to attack the Canaanite army and assures him that the Lord will make them victorious.
However, because he hesitates to believe her words, Deborah prophesies that the glory of the victory will be given to a woman.
The Israelite army routs the Canaanite soldiers. Sisera flees and takes refuge in the tent of the woman Jael, who welcomes him and provides him with food and drink. When Sisera falls asleep, Jael with a mallet took a tent peg and drove it through the temple of Sisera’s head.
After the defeat of King Jabin’s army, Deborah sings a canticle in which she proclaims: “Blessed among women be Jael . . . blessed among tent-dwelling women. He asked for water, she gave him milk, in a princely bowl she offered him curds. With her left hand she reached for a peg, with her right, for the workman’s mallet. She hammered Sisera, crushed his head” (Jgs 5:25-26a).
If these passages were made into a movie, the film would be R-rated for violence. Why does Elizabeth in her greeting of Mary associate her with these warrior women of the Old Testament? Judith and Jael fit in nicely with some of the superhero women depicted in contemporary films.
Generally, when we think of Mary, we do not envision her as a warrior woman. We rightly associate Mary with humility and gentleness of heart.
Mary has been given the titles of Queen of Peace and Mother of Mercy. At the same time, Mary as the “New Eve” is instrumental in crushing the head of the serpent — the Prince of Darkness and the Father of Lies.
Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance in Mexico to Juan Diego was instrumental in bringing an end to child sacrifice in the Aztec culture.
The praying of the rosary by all of Christian Europe and Mary’s protective hand resulted in the defeat of the Islamic fleet at Lepanto, preserving Europe from an imminent Muslim invasion.
Jan Sobieski, after praying at the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, leads the Polish cavalry to rescue Vienna from almost certain defeat by anti-Christian forces.
Saint John Paul credited Mary’s protection from preserving his life from the assassin’s bullet and bringing about the miraculous peaceful collapse of the former Communist Soviet Union.
After the battle of Lepanto, Mary was revered as Our Lady of Victory. Our Blessed Mother is also a great ally for us in our own personal spiritual battles. We also need to invoke her intercession in the very real current cultural battle for the soul of our nation. Next to Jesus, Mary is Satan’s most feared adversary.
During these final weeks of Lent, as we strive to seek liberation from some of the attachments and enslavements that prevent us from giving Jesus dominion over our hearts, we would be wise to invite Mary to assist us with these interior battles.
We must also call upon Mary to protect us from discouragement when the forces of evil appear so powerful in our society.
Let us console and strengthen ourselves with the truth that our superhero wonder woman is not some comic book fantasy, but Mary the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of the Redeemer, the Mother of God and Our Lady of Victory.
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