ROME – Ahead of the papal trip to Fatima in Portugal, Pope Francis made his weekly general audience on May 10 all about Mary, Mother of Hope.
“This coming Friday and Saturday – God willing – I will go as a pilgrim to Fatima, in order to offer Mary the temporal and eternal fate of humanity and ask through her intermission for the heavenly blessing,” the pope said when speaking to Portuguese pilgrims. “I ask all of you to join me, as pilgrims of hope and peace: May your hands in prayer continue to support mine.
“May the greatest and best of Mothers watch over each one of you, for all your days until eternity.”
The pope will be in Fatima May 12-13 on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the Marian apparitions to the three little shepherds. He’ll declare two of them saints – Jacinta and Francisco Marto – during a Mass expected to draw 400,000 people on Saturday. They will become the two youngest, non-martyred saints in Church history.
During the audience the pope underlined how Mary went through more than one dark moment in her journey as a mother. “From the first time she appears in the Gospels, her figure stands as if she were a character in a drama,” the pope said pointing to Mary’s strength and courage in accepting the Lord’s call.
“Mary presents herself in that moment like one of the many mothers of our world, brave until the very end when it comes to welcoming in her womb the story of a new man being born,” he said.
Pope Francis also observed how Mary comes across as a “silent woman” in the Gospels who reflects on every word and situation she observes. Mary offers an alternative female presence of calm and perseverance.
Mary does not get depressed before the difficulty of life, the pope said, nor does she protest violently against a hostile fate. “She is instead a woman who listens, who welcomes life as it presents itself, with its happy days but also with its tragedies,” the pope told the faithful in St. Peter’s Square.
The pope said that in her darkest moment, the death of her son on the cross, Mary was there “at the crucial moment: When most friends had vanished because of fear.”
After a long absence from the Gospels, where Mary seems to go behind the scenes and is “eclipsed,” she appears again at the foot of the cross.
“Mothers never betray,” the pope said. “In that moment at the foot of the cross, it is hard to say which passion was the most cruel: If that of an innocent man who dies tortured on the cross, or the agony of a mother who witnesses the last moments of her son’s life.”
The pope recognizes that the Gospels are laconic when it comes to describing Mary’s reaction to Jesus’s death, and pointed to how the imagination and creativity of artists and writers allows us to get a glimpse of those final and painful moments.
Francis described a graying woman from Nazareth watching her son in the moment of need. “Mary is there, faithfully present, every time there is a candle to keep alight in a place of mist and fog,” he said.
Mary the Mother of Hope comes back at the embryo of Christianity in front of “such fragile disciples: One had denied him, many had fled, all had been afraid,” the pope said.
“This is why we all love her as a Mother. Because she teaches us the virtue of patience, even when everything seems devoid of meaning,” he added. “May Mary, the Mother that Jesus gifted to all of us, guide our footsteps in moments of hardship!”
The pope concluded the audience citing Fatima and asking young people to remember the importance of reciting the rosary. To the sick he said to feel Mary’s presence under the cross, and to newlyweds that they pray for her to bring love and mutual respect.