Bishop's Column

Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast

This past Sunday, I ran the Lincoln Marathon to raise prayer for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. It was a long run, one spurred on by the prayers of Catholics along the course and across our beloved diocese. The weather was cool and breezy, perfect conditions for running – but everywhere along the way there were signs of the emerging spring. Nebraska is beginning to shake off her winter robes after a long and cold winter.

Nature’s springtime renewal is a sort of parable – a sign of what can happen in our souls when we are open to the grace of the Resurrection. Nature flourishes in the warmth of spring, and our lives are meant to flourish in holiness because of Jesus’ resurrection.

Easter takes place in the spring, and is our life’s call to renewal. "Put off your old nature," says St. Paul, "be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."

Eastertide is a season that always overlaps with the month of May: "Mary’s Month," a time for renewing our veneration for the Mother of God. Mary is the perfect example of the Paschal renewal in Christ. She is God’s masterpiece, a model of holiness and righteousness. She is the first recipient of that "new nature" which St. Paul encouraged us to put on.

In his poem "The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air we Breathe," the great 19th century Jesuit convert, priest and poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, beautifully expressed Mary’s role in our sanctification. Mary, he wrote, "mothers each new grace / That does now reach our race … She, wild web, wondrous robe, / Mantles the guilty globe, / Since God has let dispense / Her prayers his providence."

Because Jesus has made Mary the mother of his Church, we "are meant to share / Her life as life does air."

True Marian devotion draws us toward the Lord: "Through her we may see him / Made sweeter, not made dim, / And her hand leaves his light / Sifted to suit our sight."

Hopkins loved the month of May, the Church’s season of Marian devotion. He wrote another poem – "The May Magnificat" – explaining how fitting it was to offer "Spring’s universal bliss," the season of "growth in everything," to the woman whose life overflowed with the grace of Easter.

One of the most powerful forms of Marian devotion is the practice of personal consecration to Christ through the Blessed Virgin.

Consecration to Mary, promoted especially by St. Louis Marie de Montfort and St. Maximilian Kolbe, does not involve special vows such as poverty or celibacy. It is a different, more personal form of consecration, which can be made by any Catholic seeking a deeper commitment to Christ through Mary’s motherhood and Queenship.

I recently came across a new book I recommend to all of you. Father Michael Gaitley is a priest of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. His new book, "33 Days to Glory," is an opportunity for families to spend time in prayer together consecrating their lives, their families and their home to Christ through the Blessed Mother. Father Gaitley’s book is an invitation to be renewed in the grace of Easter. It is an invitation to a new springtime in relationship with Jesus Christ. I pray you will spend time with it.

Another great poet, William Wordsworth, not a Catholic, understood as all great poets do, the truth of things in nature. He was fascinated with the "Virgin" and called her "our tainted nature’s solitary boast." Listen to how he describes her. She is "purer than foam on central ocean tost; brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn with fancied roses, than the unblemished moon before her wane begins on heaven’s blue coast."

The poets understood that Mary shepherds each new grace into our lives; caring for us and feeding us as a mother. When we invite Mary into our homes and lives, she brings Christ, in new and profound ways. I pray that you will invite Mary into your home, into your life, into your heart. She will be the renewal of springtime to each of you, allowing Christ to blossom evermore fully in your heart.

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