Homily for the Memorial of the Holy Name of Mary
Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of the Holy Name of Mary, a feast that has its origins in Spain in 1513. Pope Innocent XI decreed that it be observed by the entire Church in 1683 following a victory of the Polish army against the Turks, who were besieging Vienna at the time. That victory effectively saved the West from Turkish conquest. The Polish army attributed the success of their campaign to Our Lady after they won the final battle on this date back in 1683.
As I was praying about what to preach on this morning, I found myself drawn to the meaning of this name of Mary. There are several different meanings that the early Christian writers ascribed to Mary, among them: “Lady”; “Beloved”; “Enlightened One”; and “Light Giver”. Those meanings have really captured the essence of who Mary is for us as Christians. She is Our Lady; she is the Beloved of the Father; she is the Enlightened One for she heard the will of God and responded to it generously; and she is the Light Giver as she brought forth the Light of the World from her womb. And because of these things, we should not only honor the name of Mary, but we should also recognize that there is great power in it.
A few years ago, I was reading an article in one of the online Catholic news sites that was the summary of an interview with one of the exorcists of the Diocese of Rome. In the midst of the conversation that this priest was having with the reporter, he commented on the things that scare the Devil. One of them was saying the name of Mary.
The priest tells this incredible story about an exorcism he was doing once where he was interrogating a demonic spirit. He asked the demon what characteristics of the Blessed Mother make him most fearful. The demon replied: “I am more afraid when you say the Madonna’s name, because I am more humiliated by being beaten by a simple creature, than by [God].” The demon continued by saying that Mary makes him so angry because “she always defeats me, because she was never compromised by any taint of sin!”
This echoes something St. Bernard once said about the Blessed Mother. He wrote: “Look to the star of the sea, call upon Mary…in danger, in distress, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. May her name never be far from your lips, or far from your heart…If you follow her, you will not stray; if you pray to her, you will not despair; if you turn your thoughts to her, you will not err. If she holds you, you will not fall; if she protects you, you need not fear; if she is your guide, you will not tire; if she is gracious to you, you will surely reach your destination.”
Whatever trial, suffering, challenge, or temptation we might be facing today, may we all remember to call upon our Blessed Mother to help us in our journey of faith. As St. Bernard said, may she never be far from our hearts and may she always be our guide. May we look to her for strength and support. And whenever the Devil tries to sneak his way into our lives, may we remember that there is power in simply saying the name of Mary.