All of the popes of the 20th century proclaimed something wonderful about Mary. Pope Paul VI declared her the Mother of the Church. Just as mothers give birth, nourish, and educate their children, so does Mary guide our spiritual birth and development. She unceasingly prays to Jesus on our behalf and provides us with an example of how to live a holy life.
Mary’s holiness was the result not only of a special gift from God but also of her continuous and generous cooperation with the action of the Holy Spirit. We contemplate Mary admiringly, Pope Paul VI said, because she was “firm in her faith, ready in her obedience, simple in humility, exulting in praising the Lord, ardent in charity, strong and constant in the fulfillment of her mission.” (“Signum Magnum: Letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary,” May 13, 1967)
The Hail Mary
The Hail Mary, our prayer in communion with the Mother of God, reflects two movements.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus: The first movement praises the Lord for all the great things he has done for Mary and, through her, for all human beings.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death: The second movement entrusts our cares to Mary.
Catholics have a long tradition of approaching Mary through a variety of devotions. Perhaps the most popular is the Rosary, the recitation of the Hail Mary 50 times while meditating on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Other prayers seeking the intercession of the Mother of God include the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. An ancient prayer to Mary is the Angelus, which was recited three times a day to recall the Annunciation and the Incarnation of the Son of God in Mary's womb. Many devotions have developed over the centuries in honor of Mary under different titles, often associated with a place or event (Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Guadalupe) or an aspect of Mary's role in redemption (Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Sorrows). Devotion to Mary is heightened in the months of May and October, and there are many days in the liturgical year that foster devotion to Mary.
Saints Devoted to Mary
Blessed Miguel Pro is one of many holy Catholics who have had a strong devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort founded the Company of Mary, and wrote works entitled True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin and The Secret of Mary. Saint Catherine Laboure had a strong devotion to Mary. In a series of visions of our Lady in the chapel of the convent, she was asked by the Lady to strike a medal showing the Lady and honoring the Immaculate Conception.
The result was the Miraculous Medal, which is worn by Catholics all over the world. Saint Maximilian Kolbe and six friends founded the Crusade of Mary Immaculate, devoted to the spread of the Miraculous Medal, which they wore, and devotion to Our Lady as the path to Christ. In our own time, Pope John Paul II had such a strong devotion to Mary that his papal coat of arms had a large "M" on it.