Because They Love

One of the most forthright apostles of Mary in the modern era was Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. A few examples will suffice to reveal his heartfelt love for Our Blessed Mother. For 60 years as a priest he remained faithful to an ordination promise he made to Our Lady to offer Mass in her honor every Saturday. Over his lifetime he wrote 66 books and dedicated every single one of them to Mary. As his episcopal motto he chose a line from the 19th verse of the classical Marian hymn, “Stabat Mater”, Da per Matrem me venire 

Above all, the choice of his episcopal motto is especially indicative of his style of Marian love and devotion since it reveals its Christ-centeredness. Da per Matrem me venire is a petition to the Lord asking to come to Him “through His Mother”. This Sheen-style of Marian devotion is certainly in line with the Montfortian way of true devotion that we have learned from since the days of our preparation for consecration and that we have tried to emphasize through this blog.  

But where did Fulton Sheen learn this style of Marian devotion? 

As he attests in his autobiography, Treasure in Clay, it wasn’t necessarily something he learned on his own, rather it was, in a sense, something gifted to him before he could ever take a step or utter a word. Sheen writes,   

When I was baptized as an infant, my mother laid me on the altar of the Blessed Mother in St. Mary’s Church, El Paso, Illinois, and consecrated me to her.  As an infant may be very unconscious of a birthmark, so I was unconscious of the dedication—but the mark was always there.  Like a piece of iron to the magnet, I was drawn to her before I knew her, but never drawn to her without Christ.[1] 

Never Mary without Christ and never Christ without Mary. This is the same reality we will find mysteriously present in our Holy Week liturgies, Stations, and meditations. Christ does not endure His Passion without Mary, and Mary will not let Him suffer without her. But what is the bond that unites them? Is it simply the bond of love between a Son and His Mother, or is there perhaps a love that runs deeper than family ties?  

The Good News for us, is that the answer is “yes”, there is a love between Jesus and Mary that runs deeper than family ties. It is redeeming love. The love that binds them together in the Passion is above all redeeming love. It is the love of a Redeemer and His Redemptrix. As the same Fulton Sheen wrote,  

If love means the identification and sympathy with the one loved, why should not God so love the world as to send His only-begotten Son into it to redeem it? And if that Divine Son love the world enough to die for it, why should not the Mother of Love Incarnate share that redemption? 

Furthermore, the Bishop added,  

He could not love us perfectly unless He died for us. And His Mother could not love Him perfectly unless she shared that death. That is why His life was given for us, and her heart broken for us; and that, too, is why He is Redeemer, and she is Redemptrix—because they love.[2] 

Jesus’ Body was broken for us because He loves. Mary’s heart was broken for us because she loves. Or as an ancient Christian author observed centuries before, on Calvary there were “two altars…one in Mary’s heart, the other in Christ’s body. Christ sacrificed his flesh, Mary her soul.”[3] Both Jesus’ Body and Mary’s heart were altars of sacrificial love. 

What about you? 

What about your love for Jesus and Mary?  

Is your love sacrificial?  

Does your love for Jesus and Mary follow their model of love for you? 

I pray that this reflection and these questions help you prepare your heart for the most solemn week of our liturgical year, and we could add, the most solemn week of living with Jesus in Mary.  

Seize the day and make it all Hers! 

Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE 


[1] Fulton J. Sheen, Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen, 1st paperback ed (New York: Image Books/Doubleday, 2008), 316. 

[2] Fulton J. Sheen, The Cries of Jesus from the Cross: A Fulton Sheen Anthology, ed. Al Smith (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2018), 123. 

[3] Arnold of Chartres, De septem verbis Domini in cruce, 3: PL 189, 1694,