Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Homily for the Holy Name of Mary

As the sun rose over Vienna on this day three hundred and thirty years ago, the Polish King John Sobieski was standing on a hill surveying his army of 81,000 men.  At a distance, Sobieski could see 141,000 Islamic soldiers under the leadership of Muhammid IV of Constantinople.  Each of the Islamic soldiers was determined to wipe the infidel Christians from the face of the earth.

So what did Sobieski do?  Although he was one of the finest generals of his day reports are that he neither visited the fortifications or analysed reports from his lieutenants.  He did not check ammunition supplies or pour over maps of the army encamped against him.  Rather, he recalled the day they left the Shrine of our Lady of Czestochowa, as her banner could still seen blowing in the morning breezes.  The king then knelt and prayed for his men, consecrating them to the Holy Name of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.  Then he went to Mass and received Holy Communion.

Sobieski knew that this battle was not just between two great powers, a battle which would be determined by  who had the best strategy, the most powerful weapons and the strongest soldiers.  Rather, as Pope Pius XII would later write, "To the same Heavenly Queen, at the Shrine of our Lady of Czestochowa, the illustrious John Sobieski, whose eminent valor freed Christianity from the attacks of its old enemies, confided himself."  (Letter, Cum iam lustri abeat, 1951)  By giving himself away to Mary, he won the peace of Europe.

In thanksgiving for this victory of faith, Pope Innocent XI extended "The Feast of the Holy Name of Mary" to the Universal Church on this day, the date of the good King’s prayer and victory.

Now if Mary, the Mother of Christ and the Mother of Poland defended John Sobielski against an invading army, how much more will the Mother of the Church and the Mother of priests and seminarians help us?

If we consecrate ourselves to her maternal affection, she will defend us against all the powers of darkness that seek to keep us from receiving the grace of God our Father to conform ourselves to the Priesthood of Christ, his only-begotten Son.  And make no mistake about it, those powers of darkness are as real as the soldiers which stared Sobieski in the face.

The powers that tempt us to betray our early love of God...that temp us to narcissism and impurity, to suspicion and rumor mongering and to sloth and sarcasm, and all the other diseases to which priests and seminarians are so sadly and frequently susceptible.

But fear not, my brothers, for just like a mother protects her children from debilitating diseases, so the Blessed Virgin will be our mother leading us from darkness to light, if we but trust in her kindly intercession.

So pray to her, confide in her, trust in her and learn from her example. Consecrate yourself to the one who is your best intercessor and most generous friend, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Monsignor James P. Moroney