Reflection by MaryCatherine Bibro, OFS
Article 9: ” The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared protectoress and advocate of his family” .
Francis had great devotion to our blessed Mother, but this should not be a surprise. Our Medieval, “Dark Ages” forebears were not at all dark in their understanding and great love of Mary. They held her “Yes” to Gabriel as crucial, key in God’s plan with the Incarnation as the preeminent Feast. Also, there were major heresies, including Albigensieans, who held Mary as an “aeon”, i.e. a power existing from eternity, that She & Jesus had only “apparent” bodies. Other period heresies denied the historical Mary altogether. Francis held such filial love for her, that he sought to counter these. He was also positively influenced by St. Peter Damian’s sermons. (~1022-1072).
We need go no farther than Francis’ writings, which are part of our DNA as Seculars, to see his great understanding of Mary; he sees her openness to Our Lord’s Word and call, her simple- humble life, her humility and obedience, her poverty. These he follows, and admonishes his brothers & sisters to observe.
This devotion and affection is clear in The Salutation of the BVM (p.149, Francis & Clare Complete Works); Salutation of the Virtues, (p. 151, Complete Works) ; Office of the Passion, Marian Antiphons (p81, Complete Works); Second Version Letter to Faithful, verse 4 (p. 67, Complete Works).
He thought of her as mother Genetrix of God, as “virgin made church” (Salutation BVM) and “fullness of grace and every good”. While not educated as a theologian, he saw in her a sort-of inhabitation of the Trinity, i.e. “…chosen Holy Father … consecrated with… beloved Son and… Holy Spirit the Paraclete…” (Salutation BVM).
What can we do? As Secular Franciscans we can emulate our Seraphic Father’s devotion in many ways. Our charisms of Humility, Poverty of Spirit, Contemplation, Penance are reflected in Mary. We can live these ourselves as a prayer to her. — demonstrate Humility in our interactions with all; — show our Poverty of Spirit and simplicity by making this clear to all we encounter. — keep a full prayer life and actively participate in prayer services and devotions in our parish, become active lay ministers of Eucharist and Lectors, if our parish does not have any special Marian devotions suggets them – Rosary on Fatima Saturdays, Miraculous Medal novena, etc. and volunteer to lead these. — openly follow our Holy Father’s care of creation (especially since that follows Francis’ Canticle of the Sun).
For Francis, the Virgin Mary lived what Francis’ Rule and writings proclaim for us, thus we honor Mary by living our Rule.
And, to end with the conclusion of our Rule, Article 9, “… Seculars should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently”.