Rev. Fr. Sylvester Isedu
The Blessed Virgin Mary is indeed an undoer of knots. Knots come in different form of difficulties from which people, especially we her children, may find it hard to extricate themselves: physical and spiritual.
As it concerns our youths, there are so many reasons for which to exercise courage. Here, I must acknowledge that from the events of the previous year 2020, viz, the ‘End SARS’ protest, we should be convinced that our youths can be so courageous.It is however important to state here that not all forms of courage are divinely inspired. There is courage that is channeled to honourable deeds; while some seek unwholesome ends, others misunderstand or lack courage altogether, hence the topic exercising Mary’s courage; as far as glorifying God is concerned.
Mother Mary is very concerned for the younger generation; and so, she is more than happy to continue praying for the increase and sustenance of their faith. “Mary embodies what it means to be a disciple, to live truly, to be holy” says Leonardo De Lorenzo ( The American Jesuit Review, www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018).
Jesus asks basically the same question twice, to the disciples who were on their way to Emmaus “what is going on with you?” (Lk: 24:17). The disciples revealed four things about themselves. They, like many youths, are disoriented – heading in the wrong direction, confused – they know a lot but do not know how to make sense of it), chatty (talk without much listening), and sad (uncertain where to find hope).
The Blessed Virgin Mary was a youth- a very young one at that, when the angel Gabriel was sent to her. What stood out was her courage- fueled by her faith in the power of God. “How shall this be?” (Lk. 1:34). To have accepted to conceive Jesus,meant a few things:
She would be questioned by Joseph her husband. He could have exposed her to be stoned to death. Here, hers was like the experience of Queen Esther who said, ‘If I die, I die’ Esth. 4:16. But her faith was rewarded by God who worked a way out. The circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth: Not the most presentable of places (Mk. 1:20-21). Mary made the best use of what was available.
The courage to continue: Mary encouraged herself with help from God, St Joseph etc., to flee Herod’s wrath, and not give up. The Courage to Bear the Knowledge of Death of Many Children (Lk. 2:16): Being herself a mother, Mary, must have felt it deeply as part of the sacrifices made for Jesus to be safe. She must have kept praying for the slain children as she does for aborted and abandoned babies. She also prays fervently for our youths to have the courage to avoid such evils.
The Courage to Hear/Bear Bad News: The words of Simeon could have thrown anyone off balance, but patient Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The Courage to Search for JESUS for Three Days (Lk. 25:45-51): Mary and Joseph sought Jesus during which time, in our homes today, there ensues a blame game, and accusations upon counter accusations. She knew she had a goal and would not allow mundane concerns sway her off her focus. But she must have been scared. Courage never insinuates absence of fear.
The Courage to Bear Jesus’ Persecution: While Many thought Jesus was losing his mind, others were criticizing him aggressively and calling him names including prince of demons (Mt. 12:24). Mary bore them all, knowing that the testimony of Angel Gabriel can never be a lie. (Lk. 1:32-33).The Courage to Witness the Passion of Christ (Jn:19:2-27).
There is no telling how a mother, a widow at that, should comport herself when her only son is humiliated and publicly executed for outrageous reasons. It is a miracle how she survived it all and not dying of hypertension etc. Thank God for those who were around her to encourage her all through. No one should ever have to watch their children die.
After all these brave experiences, the Blessed Virgin Mary having been crowned Queen of heaven is today the undoer of Knots. She has been equipped for that role. A mother and helper, The mediatrix of all graces.
THE YOUTH QUESTION
The youth in this piece, according to the Nigerian national youth policy, is referring to individuals from age 18-35 years (www.youthpolicy,org). Now Pope Francis summarizes the youth’s predicament in the 2018 world youth day message titled: “Do not be afraid, Mary for you have found favour with God. (Lk. 1: 30)”. “Today there are many young people who feel the need to be different from what they really are, in an attempt to adapt to an often artificial and unattainable standard. …Others fear that they will not be able to find an emotional security and that they will remain alone. Today a large number of young people are full of fear, both believers and non-believers.” This refers to youths all over the world and not only in Nigeria!
The youths in Nigeria have numerous challenges:
The quest for good enough life partners, perseverance in waiting for the fruit of the womb, intolerance, domestic violence and separation among youths is common place. Harsh economic realities like unemployment, pressure from family and personal responsibilities, disillusionment in terms of their hopes and aspiration for the future, lack of trust in their leaders-church and secular alike.
In Nigeria, some parents offer their children as apprentices to fraudsters popularly tagged ‘Yahoo boys’. Some wives threaten to divorce their husbands if they fail to join the band wagon of internet fraudsters. In the name of seeking greener pastures, youths embark on dare-devil trips through deserts en-route to other nations. This is done often with the intention of succeeding or dying in the process. But going back for a host of them is not an option.
Elsewhere, youths are being lost to violence and immorality, due to major influences and trends on social media and pressure. Nevertheless, we need to also acknowledge the efforts of many other youths who on the contrary channel their energies to worthwhile ventures such as evangelization, positively impacting society and serving humanity with their talents and expertise. These take place both physically and on social media. These include among many others, our Legionaries youths, Charismatic renewal youths, choristers, young catholic students Y.C.S, National federation of catholic students N.F.C.S.
Exercising Mary’s courage implies:
Simplicity/Humility: This helps youths to be level headed and easy to guide and be led by the Holy Spirit.
Devotion: Youths should make recourse to our lady undoer of knots, praying for our needs, praying for courage and being committed.
Determination: Mary never lost focus, no matter what. Perseverance is key, without which Mother Mary could have given up.
Intervention/Intercession: Like Mother Mary did for the couple at Cana in galilee (Jn. 2:1-11), we should be ready and willing to be our brothers and sisters keepers.
Trust God despite the odds: Mary listened while Zechariah hastened, while Mary saw God’s hand at work, Zechariah needed a sign.
Giving mutual support: Mary enjoyed support from relatives, friends and well-wishers. Youths need same, with such encouragement, many will excel. We should not neglect our youths in their moments of need because they need all the help they can get to resist the various temptations facing them daily.
Team-work: In the acts of the apostles (Acts 1:14), the Blessed Virgin Mary stayed with the apostles when they were awaiting the coming of the Promised Holy Spirit, and when it came she was there. Together we can go far and do great. After all Jesus said, where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst, and elsewhere, it is written, if two shall agree… (Matt. 18:19). Here also, I must recommend that our youths seek mentors to impart skills and proper orientations unto them. Mentors should not be turned into financial benefactors for convenience sake.
The need for wholesome commitment
Mary showed memory, mercy sacrifice and commitment. What is it that prevents young people from listening to the voice of God? I realized that those who refuse to be committed to God are invariably committed to something else.
According to Pope Francis, in today’s world it is supremely difficult to keep purity and chastity completely intact. Our entire culture seems aimed at making young people forget the beauty and importance of the virtues of purity and chastity, telling them that they should do whatever they want.
But it is inevitable to live without a commitment. The followers of Jesus have a cost even, of discipleship. Our pattern of life has to be ordered after the path to eternal life. But this does not mean that everyone who is devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Undoer of Knots must become a priest or religious; nor is she going to ask of them, something that the grace of God cannot supply. Many people fear that possibility so here are a few persons whose lives alley those fears: Vitolo a young boy at 9 in France as at 1945, Van Hoof a mother of 8 children from Wisconsin, America. She is no longer a catholic but still reveres Mother Mary. St. Dominic Guzman was already a priest, 38 years of age when Mary appeared to him. Our own Nigerian Visionary Christiana Ejeh (Nee Agbo) who at Aokpe, Benue state, experienced the Blessed Virgin Mary at age 12, in 1992, had wished to become a Carmelite nun; but today she is a married Lawyer.( Thenationonlineng.net- Behold the New Jerusalem). These show that Mary’s messages were centered on repentance and reparations for sins.
Above all, the central message is continuous repentance and promotion of holiness. How shall the young remain sinless? By obeying God’s Word (Ps. 119:9). This is a call to Christian commitment; and it takes courage. Let the youths and indeed everyone not be discouraged. If children grow up knowing Our Lady, cultivating the habit of flying to her arms for refuge, and strive to imitate her holiness of life, they will lay a secure foundation upon which they can build the rest of their lives.
Marian devotion is, furthermore, absolutely essential for youth in discerning God’s calling for them. Since it is our lady who obtains the special graces needed in discerning and realizing one’s vocation, it is to her that these young people must turn. She will grant them the strength they need to persevere and to make good use of the graces granted to them in order to fulfill their state in life. St. Philip-Neri has this to say, “devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to the Blessed Mother are not simply the best way, but in fact the only way to keep purity.” Society employs every possible means to encourage them to, not only disregard these virtues, but also disregard the church’s teachings on life, human sexuality and marriage as well. St. louis Marie Grignion de Montfort wrote on ‘True devotion to Mary’ noted that “All true children of God have God for their father and Mary for their Mother.”(https;/missiomagazine.com/mary-and-the-youth) Children, even more so than adults, find it natural to look with confidence to their, mother, to entrust to her, and to confide all their cares and worries and troubles to her, and to confide all their cares, worries and troubles to her maternal solicitude.
The youths are the hope of the future and Our Lady is the Key to awakening the hearts, minds and souls of young people to the beauty of the Truth. Let us pray that catholic youth everywhere will show renewed love for our Lady and a firm commitment to spreading the Gospel of Christ through her maternal mediation and assistance. May our Lady raise up a mighty army among the youth to fight courageously for her against the forces of darkness in the battle for souls, spreading knowledge and love of her to all corners of the earth. Amen.