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October 13, 2020
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October 13, 2020

Our Lady of good memory

By Fr Martin Sirju

The month of October is here—the Month of the Rosary—a time to remember Mary. A time to pray the rosary as a family.

In this reflection, I want to follow an insight of Pope Francis who describes Mary as being of good memory. This does not mean the capacity to remember things like someone with photographic memory. It’s deeper than that.

He says Mary remembered the first call–the Annunciation–throughout all her life. She remembered it in a personal way–the angel spoke to her but also as an event.

This event had significance for all of humanity: her abandonment to God’s Will opened the way for our salvation. Her ‘yes’ was irrevocable and faithful.

What sorts of spiritual things should we remember? I think the day of our baptism is one. Do we know the date of our baptism? Can we even find that baptism certificate? Hopefully rat hasn’t eaten it or it isn’t spotted with water stains.

More importantly, do we remember the ‘event’ of our baptism? What did it mean to our parents and godparents? What does it mean to us?

It is often said that the priest acts in persona Christi –‘in the person of Christ’. I think that is a bit overrated. Every baptised person, bearing that indelible ‘character’ or mark of the Holy Spirit given at baptism, acts in a sense ‘in persona Christi’.

St Paul says: “It is not I, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). We bear the person of Christ in us, and ought to in what we think, say and do. To bear Him is to remember Him, as His mother did, going out of Himself for others, being rejected and accepted, but never ceasing to offer Himself in the rhythmic eucharist of life.

Those who are married should also remember the day of their wedding, when they exchanged vows and pledged to be at each other’s side for better or for worse. Many prepare programmes for the wedding service, with readings clearly cited. I hope they keep those programmes and reread those words especially in difficult times or at their anniversaries. The Word can strengthen present happiness or reignite lost hope.

Wedding rings can perform a similar function. The rings bring to mind–a kind of nuptial anamnesis–the small event of mutual exchange, itself part of a wider event, the wedding–a promise of covenanted love.

Nothing brings as much happiness as a happy marriage, or as much sorrow as one that is breaking up. Couples need to make time to remember the nuptial event.

Priests too need to remember that personal call, which for me came in my early teens. I still remember the words of the priest who guided me through those years: “It is not what you want of your life; it is what God wants of you”.

I remember clearly the day of my ordination when Archbishop Anthony Pantin clasped my hands in his and said to me: “Father Martin, believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you preach.”

Unlike Miriam of Nazareth (Mary) we forget the events, we lose heart, the ideal no longer means much to us. Baptism becomes practically meaningless, divorced from Catholic education, which is why there is so much emphasis not merely on additional and national scholarships but open scholarships. Those without the latter are lesser mortals.

The memory of Catholic education is more than “academic excellence”, but part of a theological anthropology rooted in Christ.

Priests too can lose the memory of that first call or the event of their ordination. Both Popes Benedict XVI and Francis have used the word ‘filth’ to describe the extent to which the lives of many priests have sunk into the depths of Sheol. I too have sometimes lost light of that divine ideal, the supreme call to holiness and the salvation of souls. The danger is to despair or to settle for acedia (sloth)–a spiritless rambling on.

This Mary never did because she was of good memory. She remembered the Passover and Exodus whose motifs of liberation framed the background for her song of praise, hope and victory—the Magnificat.

She remembered “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25) and knew God would vindicate her dead son but didn’t know how. She was open to surprise.

When the Eucharist is celebrated the priest, imitating Christ says, “Do this in memory of me”. I much prefer the version used by distinguished professor of Old Testament Leslie Hoppe: “When you do this, remember me”.

As we remember Christ at Mass, let us also remember the woman who first conceived Him in faith and then in the flesh.



Fr Martin Sirju is the Vicar General and Administrator of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception