Following Mass celebrated by Archbishop John J. Myers, guest speaker Mary Jo Anderson spoke about the Virgin Mary's importance in Church history and her role as a model for contemporary women.
Anderson is a contributing editor for Crisis Magazine, a Washington D.C.-based publication on religion, politics and culture. She is also a frequent guest on EWTN's "Abundant Life" with Johnette Benkovic, has a monthly radio feature "Global Watch" and is a national speaker and lecturer.
Her first discussion at the forum, "Gate of Heaven, Morning Star," noted how Mary has been a key figure in the history of the Church. "(Mary's) intercession has always been there and may be urgent for today. Devotion to Our Lady is not a relic of the past."
The increased interest in technology can be used, Anderson argued, to proliferate sinful behavior. "Technology is neither good or bad; it is what you do with it. It is possible to take a sinful image and rabidly spread it. This is a crucial era for Mary to be present and to seek her intercession."
Mary is also crucial to the development of the Church at the beginning of discipleship. However, devotion to Mary does not interfere with devotion to her Son. "She was the first disciple of Jesus. Mary is not displacing her Son. Jesus' humanity comes from His mother. She has her place in the economy of redemption. The union of mother and Son was not just shared in body, but Mary emptied herself of her will for her Son."
After honestly committing herself to the will of God, Anderson explained that Mary became a model for all Catholics who have good intentions, but may have reservations to pursuing the will of God. "We should all ask Mary to strengthen our will," Anderson said.
Viewing Mary as the "gate of heaven" has been used throughout centuries, but can sometimes seem outdated in modern context. "That title hits the modern ear a little flowery. At Annunciation, the gate is unlocked. A woman (Eve) began the destruction of the world and Mary is the restitution," Anderson explained.
The image of Mary as the "morning star" is frequently depicted in stainedglass windows, in Christian poetry and is a metaphor for her place in the Church. "Mary is the morning star. In such darkness, where hope wanes and there seems to be no solution to problems, she is there. The morning star is a precursor to the blinding light of the sun. You cannot look at the sun directly, because it is too bright. This is evocative of the ‘Son.'You can look at the moon; it is gentle and simply reflects the sun. She shines the light of Christ on all of her children," Anderson said.
Mary's virtues of receptivity, fidelity and humility are to be replicated by modern women in their relationship with God, Anderson explained. "Women are designed to be receptive biologically, in our hearts and in our spirit. Mary did not fully understand what God was asking of her, but she fully trusted Him. She was receptive to the plan of God. We receive all of God's graces through Mary's sacrifice." Mary was also humble and was pleased to give all her graces over to God. "The challenge for us is to imitate her virtues," Anderson said.
Although Mary accepted and entrusted herself to God, her life was not easy. When placed in modern context, what she did is virtually impossible to understand. "There was a submission to all He wanted her to be. She also suffered and her life was not easy. There is not a woman here that would not have tried to get her son free (during the crucifixion). We would see it as unjust and beg and plead for justice. Mary never said a word because she understood that this mission had to be done to save humanity. That is a love beyond our comprehension," she declared.
Anderson believes the perception of women in the Church changed during Vatican Council II and the late pope. "Pope John Paul II had such a heart for women and Mary. He gave himself to the Blessed Mother. In the face of all the evil he witnessed in his life; he said Mary was on his shoulder. Vatican Council II stated that women would play an important role in history. Women would take place in government, education and bring the world what it desperately needs-to bring a pure, active and engaged (not passive) femininity."