The revolutionary Blessed Mother

Tuesday morning Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre in Santiago, Cuba. He began his homily by speaking about how the Blessed Mother did not stay and rest in Nazareth after she had agreed to God’s plan and became pregnant with the Baby Jesus. Instead, since she had learned about her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy through the Annunciation by St. Gabriel, she crossed Israel so that she could go and be of assistance to her kinswoman. She “did not think that everyone needed to come and attend to her and serve her,” instead she went to serve Elizabeth.

“And since that first day this has always been her peculiar characteristic,” the pope preached. “She has been the woman who has visited many men and women, children and old people, youth. She has known how to visit and accompany in the dramatic gestations of many of our lands; she has protected the fight of all who have suffered for defending the rights of their children. And how, she still does not fail to bring us the Word of Life, her Son, our Lord.” In this paragraph one can see the pope alluding to the Ladies in White, who protest every Sunday in Havana the detention of their relatives by the Cuban government. The pope witnessed similar protests earlier in his life, during and after the dictatorship in Argentina, when the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires would march, demanding to know what happened to their children who “disappeared.”

After speaking about how the Cuban bishops had written to Pope Benedict XV a century ago, asking that this avocation of the Virgin be made the patroness of Cuba, Pope Francis spoke about how Mary had accompanied and continues to accompany the people. 

“In this Sanctuary, which keeps the memory of the holy people, faithful to God, who journey in Cuba, Mary is venerated as Mother of Charity. From here she guards your roots, your identity, so that we do not lose it in ways of despair. The soul of the Cuban people was forged amidst sufferings, hardships, which were not capable of extinguishing the faith, that faith which was maintained alive thanks for so many grandmothers who continued doing whatever was possible, in the daily life of home, [to make present] the living presence of God; the presence of the Father Who frees, strengthens, heals, gives courage, and Who is a secure refuge and a sign of the new Resurrection. Grandmothers, mothers, and so many others with tenderness and care were the signs of the Visitation, like Mary, of bravery, of faith for their grandchildren, in their families. They maintained open the little crack [where] like a mustard seed the Holy Spirit continued accompanying the heartbeat of this people.”

The pope then quoted his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph 288: “Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.”

In this editorial we are laying out the flow of this homily because some discussions of the pope’s trip to Cuba in our local media would have people believing that the Holy Father has essentially embraced communism over democracy. We are writing this editorial before time has elapsed enough for there to be a reaction to what he said on talk radio, but when reading this homily, one can see that the Holy Father began by speaking about how Mary has accompanied the Cuban people in their sufferings, before and after Castro’s revolution, and that his use of the adjective “revolutionary” is not about communism, but about the Blessed Mother and the Divine project of the Incarnation.

The pope then invited everyone to be part of a revolution — but not a political one. “Generation and generation, day after day, we are invited to renew our faith. We are invited to live the revolution of tenderness like Mary, Mother of Charity. We are invited to ‘get out of the house,’ to have our eyes and heart open to others. Our revolution passes through tenderness, through the joy that makes all neighbors, which creates compassion — which is not pity, it is suffering with, so as to liberate — and brings us to become involved, so as to serve, in the lives of others.”

He added, “Like Mary, Mother of Charity, we want a Church which leaves the house so as to build bridges, break down walls, sow reconciliation. Like Mary, we want a Church which knows how to accompany in all the ‘pregnant’ situations of our people, engaged in life, culture, society.”

Playing off of the meaning of the word cobre in Spanish (it means “copper”), the Holy Father closed with a reference of Mary’s Magnificat: “This is our most precious copper, this is our greatest treasure and the best legacy we can leave: like Mary, learning to get out of the house to go on the byways of the Visitation. And learning to pray with Mary, the canticle of the people of God who journeys through history. It is the living memory of God amongst us; it is the perennial memory of God Who has looked upon the humility of His people, Who has helped His handmaid as He had promised our fathers and their descendants forever.”

May we learn that lesson here and store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven.

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