"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

Cor ad Cor Loquitur (Heart Speaks To Heart)


W
hat role did Mary play in the life of St Ignatius? Mary plays a prominent role in my Jesuit life. This I owe to St Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises. I am a full time giver of the Exercises particularly 30-day retreats. Through this priviledged experience, I came to understand how prominent the role of the BVM is in St Ignatius’s life. When he was recovering after the cannonball injury, Ignatius discerned whether or not to continue his soldiering path. We read in his autobiography when he made the choice to follow Christ, this major choice in his life was affirmed by a vision of Mary and the Child Jesus: “One night, as he lay sleepless, he clearly saw the likeness of our Lady with the holy Child Jesus.” (Joseph N. Tylenda, SJ, A Pilgrim’s Journey: The Autobiography of Ignatius of Loyola). A majority of art representations we have of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) is of the vulnerable and frail stereotype of a woman taking care of an infant Jesus. But there is one image of Mary at the Basilica of Mary Major in Rome that shows Mary, with her left hand raised in the act of blessing her audience while her right hand holds a squirming child Jesus. St Ignatius's image of Mary, I believe, is of this strong woman type. Perhaps even while he was still a soldier, he must have constantly called on Mary's help. Traditionally, entire armies would ask for her help before heading into battle–from Byzantium, through the crusades and up through the time of Imperial Russia. St Ignatius saw in Mary a woman and a queen of incredible strength and power and himself as a warrior who was ready to give his own life in defense of this queen.

A contemporary of Ignatius, Ferdinand Magellan, named two of his ships after Mary on his historic trip to the Philippine islands 500 years ago in March 1521. Out of the five ships that left Spain, only one, Santa Maria de la Victoria, was able to return to Seville, Spain in 1522 to become the first ship to circumnavigate the earth. I have grown to adore and cherish Mary through my years as a Jesuit. I always look forward to celebrating mass on Marian feasts. I make it a point to pray one Hail Mary after the Prayers of the Faithful in every mass. There are times when I would ask myself, “Am I loving the BVM more than I should? Shouldn’t that be for God alone?” Then I recalled what St Maximillian Kolbe, OFM once said, “Never be afraid of loving Mary too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” But it is grace. It is a gift from God to have such an encounter with his mother. But the seed had been planted already when we went through the 30-day retreat.

Second point is closeness to Mary is closeness to God. Let us not be afraid to be close to Mary because closeness to Mary is closeness to God, closeness to both her own Son and the Father. There is great power in closeness. In fact, the Church Fathers designated the Virgin as the “conqueror of all heresies.” If you revisit the major debates and attacks towards the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, Mary is always there at the forefront. She is the formidable frontliner. Benedict XVI, like his predecessor, traveled visiting Marian Shrines, e.g., Fatima, Lourdes, Loreto and Aparecida. In 2010, when visiting Fatima, in Portugal, he distinctly said that the “maternity of God,” referring to Mary’s role as Theotokos, is a potent antidote to egoism. In like manner, Pope Francis said in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace on May 8, 2017 (ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE COMMUNITY OF THE PONTIFICAL PORTUGUESE COLLEGE IN ROME) about the Motherhood of Mary. The Holy Father says that Mary's motherhood helps us cultivate a mother-child relationship that brings forth life and faith-sustaining relationship, foremost of which is our relationship with the Mother Church, which is the mystical body of Christ and vessel of spiritual and life-giving food and drink. I quote,
“The relationship with Our Lady helps us to have a good relationship with the Church: both of them are Mothers. You know, in this respect, the comment of St Isaac, the abbot of Stella; what can be said about Mary can be said about the Church, and also about our soul. All three are female, all three are Mothers, and all three give life. We must therefore cultivate the filial relationship with Our Lady because, if this is missing, there is something of the orphan in the heart.”
One year later in 2018, Pope Francis decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church be inserted into the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost and to be celebrated every year. Another important role of Mary in the life of our Lord which testifies to how close Mary was towards Jesus, Mary was Jesus's spiritual director. How did she do that? By being a mirror. In my experince of guiding retreatants, I look at myself as a mirror. I mirror to my retreatant the movements of the Spirit. This was Mary's second great role which goes with her maternity of God. She bears the title “Mirror of Justice.” What image was reflected in Mary? Who was reflected in Mary? We find in the book of Wisdom a description of such mirror. I quote, “For she is the reflection of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness” (Wisdom 7:26). The more perfect, the more smooth and spotless the mirror, the more perfect will be the likeness of the object reflected. Mary’s soul was clear, calm, unruffled, spotless, and in Her the perfect image of Jesus is always seen. I have always been helped by Mary whenever my retreatant would like to have a deep interior sense of Jesus's joys and sorrows. I tell them to go to Mary, look at Jesus through her eyes, listen to Jesus through her ears, feel Jesus's love through her heart. Mary, as it were, is Jesus’s echo that resounds. The instrument to resound or reecho to us God's message must be placed closest to God. No one was ever so close to Jesus as his Mother… no one ever had such opportunities of studying him, of modeling herself on his virtues, on his character. She is humbly called "Mirror of Justice." It is not "Mirror of Jesus” though for it would be quite presumptuous. No one could perfectly mirror God except Godself. Justice, in Scripture, means not only that great moral or cardinal virtue which gives everyone his due, but it represents a perfect state of soul, the perfection, the completion of all virtues. That is what Mary is. Mary was a perfect copy of the virtues of Jesus, of his humility, his love, his patience, his charity, his mercy. She lived with him in the closest intimacy for thirty years.

Finally, there is an ancient formula that says “De Maria nunquam satis,” meaning “concerning Mary one can never say enough.” Where words stop, the truest role of Mary begins. “Cor ad Cor Loquitur,” a Latin phrase meaning “Heart speaks to Heart,” was used by St Francis de Sales to one of his spiritual directees. Later, St John Henry Newman took it as his episcopal motto. There are times when words fail to communicate the message of the heart. Where language through words ends, the language of the heart begins, Cor ad Cor Loquitor. The perfect model I believe is the BVM, the one who ponders everything through the heart. Mary's quiet countenance or meekness, was more powerful than any theologian's voluminous work. Her silence accomplished so much more. Why so? Because she spoke volumes through her heart and listened to Jesus through her heart. I hope and pray that in this retreat, we can cultivate a similar closeness to God through closeness to Mary. Some might think that cultivating closeness to Mary, reciting the rosary is enough. I do not often recite the rosary. It is through devotion to Mary's constancy in the presence of the Lord or what Fr Shogo always reminds us of, the here and now. I have called Mary, Our Lady of the Hear and Now. The here and now of Mary with her Son is found in what we read in Holy Scripture. Whenever and wherever Jesus is fund in the Scriptures, Mary is there contstantly pointing, through a mother’s simple smile, a mother’s approving nod, i.e., by just being an ordinary mother to her Son Jesus. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ (Homily delivered during the retreat of Arrupe Internation Residence Jesuit Scholastics on June 6, 2022—Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

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