Mary's Place in the Life of Francis

Francis’ love for Mary was tender and deep. He composed beautiful prayers in her honour and prayed them every day(1).

 

He saw in Mary a model of the Gospel life he wished to live, because Mary’s life was intimately bound up with the mysteries of the life of Jesus, and because Mary was poor, a ‘little one’, completely open to whatever God wanted of her.

The little church of St Mary of the Angels (the Portiuncula) was Francis’ favourite place. He insisted that of all the shrines and churches dedicated to Mary throughout the world, this was the one nearest to her heart(2). It was here that his vocation to live the Gospel became clear to him(3), and when after years of illness and pain he knew that death was approaching, it was to the Portiuncula that he asked his brothers to carry him to spend his last remaining days(4).

The Franciscan Order

Francis’ love for Mary seems to have been passed on to his Order. Houses and churches are frequently dedicated to her. The desire to honour Mary led Franciscans like Duns Scotus to proclaim her Immaculate Conception many years before this dogma was defined.

Mary is our model in living according to the Gospel, in a way that resonates particularly with Franciscans. She is the little one, whose hope is in God alone. Her Magnificat(5) reminds us that the weak, the helpless, the poor, are the ones who have a special claim on the Almighty. As Franciscans, whose very charism in the church is to live in littleness and simplicity, we are aware of being, like Mary, completely dependent on God’s mercy and grace.

Mary and Ourselves

Mary is our Lady and our Queen; she is Mother of the Church, the Body of Christ. As mother, she has a special care for each of us. The young girl whose “Fiat” accepted the Incarnation on our behalf(6) is also the woman whose life was devoted to caring for those who needed her, the one who knows how it feels to face uncertainty and suffering, who had to let go of the person who was dearer to her than anyone else in the world. Mary’s life has a great deal in common with significant moments in our own journey through life.

As we celebrate the feasts of the Church’s year, we are constantly reminded of Mary’s part in the plan of God for our salvation. We pray with Mary, the handmaid of the Lord. Like Mary, we are the little ones whose complete trust is in God’s care.

Notes:

  1. Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also see II Celano 198
  2. Mirror of Perfection 55
  3. I Celano 22
  4. I Celano 108
  5. Luke 1:46ff
  6. cf II Celano 198