The Blessed Virgin and the Sanctification of the Family
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
time ago while in Washington, I stopped at the Georgetown University
Library to check the latest issue of the monthly magazine, The
Marxist Review. Sure enough, there was an article on women’s
liberation. A sentence or two by way of introducing, “The Blessed
Virgin and the Sanctification of the Family.”
struggle for the emancipation of women is part of the
struggle…of the whole people.
There can be no emancipation for women without a revolution.
This mass participation of women in the class struggle…is thus
becoming a highlight of our epoch of social renewal.
They (women) are beginning to realize that the success of the
struggle…depends to a large degree on the extent to which this
struggle fuses with the actions for a radical restructuring of
the value of these quotations from The Marxist Review? Their value
lies in the fact that one of the main goals of world Marxism is, “A
radical restructuring of society.” In more simple terms, Marxism
aims to eradicate the very existence of the family as it has been
understood since the dawn of human history.
Breakdown of Family Life
It is common knowledge that something drastic has happened to the
family in the modern world. Countries like the United States reveal
such a breakdown of marriage as Western civilization has not known
in two thousand years.
The divorce rate has escalated to well over fifty percent
nationally. Remarriages and multiple marriages have become
The birth rate in many so-called developed countries has dropped to
zero population, where one nation after another is not reproducing
itself enough for survival. Contraception has become the rule rather
than the exception. Sterilization is now a common practice. And
abortion is not only legalized, but I would say legislated in most
of the countries of Europe and North America.
The practice of sodomy has now been popularized beyond our wildest
imagination, and legalized—in practice—to the point where normal
marital relations are labeled “old fashioned,” “traditionalist,” and
the remnant of a past age.
The very meaning of words like fornication, adultery, self-abuse and
infidelity, has been radically changed. They are certainly not
considered sins by millions of once believing Christians, or sadly
even by many professed Catholics.
There are many reasons for this rebellion against the family and
revolution against marital stability. But one of the main reasons
has been the demonic zeal of Marxism, which has penetrated, by now,
every country in the world.
We return for a moment to the few quotations I made at the beginning
of this talk about women’s liberation which entered the modern world
You cannot read one book by Nicolai Lenin without seeing proof of
what I have just said. Radical feminism with its hatred of men and
its enslavement of women under the guise of liberating them from
home and the family—has its roots in Marxist-Leninism as I have
learned years ago. I began reading Marx and Lenin from the age of
Every basic idea of radical women’s liberation, that is destroying
family life, can be found in the writings of Lenin. In many cases,
radical feminism has borrowed the exact words of the evil genius
who, along with Karl Marx, created world Communism.
Restoration of Family Life
The title of this chapter is the Blessed Virgin and the
Sanctification of Family Life. I plan to speak of the Blessed Virgin
in the last part of these reflections. Now I wish to identify what I
believe is the only sure way of restoring sound family life in our
Family life can be restored in countries like ours only by Catholic
families living up to the teachings of Christ and His Church.
This means two things: 1) It means that ordinary Catholic families
cannot survive. They must be extraordinary families. They must be,
what I do not hesitate to call, heroic Catholic families.
Ordinary Catholic families are no match for the devil as he uses the
media of communication to secularize and de-sacralize modern
No less than ordinary individual Catholics can survive, so ordinary
Catholic families cannot survive. They have no choice. They must
either be holy—which means sanctified—or they will disappear.
The only Catholic families that will remain alive and thriving in
the twenty-first century are the families of martyrs. Father, mother
and children must be willing to die for their God-given convictions.
Back in the second century, the Fathers of the Church scoffed at her
persecutors who were trying to crush Christianity by fire and sword.
The persecutors were told, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of
Christians.” The same is true today.
What the world most needs today is families of martyrs, who will
reproduce themselves in spirit in spite of the diabolical hatred
against family life by the enemies of Christ and His Church in our
We said that family life can be restored only by Catholic families
who are holy – or sanctified.
I now want to make a second statement on the same subject. Family
life can be restored in our society only by the apostolic zeal of
holy Catholic families—reaching out to other families who are in
such desperate need today.
Pope John Paul II called this, “The apostolate of families to
In other words, the sanctification of family life implies two
responsibilities, not just one: the personal duty for each Catholic
family to grow in holiness, as a family; and the social duty of
working, as a family, to help other families remain alive and to
grow, as families, not in spite of but almost because of the demonic
opposition from the unbelieving world all around them.
Role of the Blessed Virgin
We are now in a position to ask: What is the role of the Blessed
Virgin in the sanctification of the family? In other words: How
important is Our Lady in making holy, or sanctifying the Catholic
Her role, I do not hesitate to say, is not only important but
Mary is indispensable because of her powerful intercession with her
Son, to obtain for Catholic families the graces they need to protect
themselves from the enemies of the family in the modern world.
Mary is indispensable because she provides the example to Catholic
families of the virtues they must practice to sanctify themselves
and to save and sanctify others in the apostolate of families to
Praying to Mary
Praying to the Blessed Virgin is the first and most fundamental way
that families can become holy. What does this mean in practice? It
means at least seven things:
Every Catholic family should have some daily prayer which they
say together to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The most obvious is the
Every Catholic family, at least once (or better two or even
three times a day) should recite the Angelus together.
Every Catholic family should make each Saturday of the year a
day specially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. My widowed mother
and I in Cleveland abstained from meat every Saturday. It need
not be abstinence, but it should be something that involves the
whole family each Saturday, in honor of Our Lady.
Every Catholic family should have at least one picture or
painting of the Blessed Virgin in the home.
Every member of a Catholic family should wear a Scapular, or a
Scapular medal in honor of the Blessed Virgin. Also, every
member of a Catholic family should be enrolled in the
Confraternity of the Miraculous Medal, wear the medal, and daily
say one Hail Mary and add the invocation, “O Mary conceived
without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Every Catholic family should have at least some books on the
Blessed Virgin in the home, and subscribe to some bona fide
Catholic magazine which has articles on Our Lady. Reading about
Mary is a sure way of growing in the knowledge of Mary.
Knowledge leads to love. And love of Mary leads to becoming an
apostle of Mary.
Every Catholic family should have at least one small statue of
Our Lady in their home. This should become a little Marian
shrine, before which the members of the family will say at least
one Hail Mary every day.
foregoing seven practices of devotion to the Blessed Virgin are by
no means exhaustive. But they are typical of the kind of silent and
vocal prayers that Catholic families should exercise if they wish to
obtain from Mary what they, as families, constantly need from her
With no apologies I will add still one more pious Marian practice
that will do wonders for your family. This is to recite—and I would
say memorize—the Litany of Our Lady, and periodically say this
Litany of Loretto together as a family. Nineteen eighty-seven was
the four hundredth anniversary of the approval of the Litany of Our
Lady by Pope Sixtus V.
Our last and, in a way, most important means of sanctifying the
family is for each member—father, mother and children—to imitate Our
Lady in the practice of those virtues which she practiced on earth,
and wants us to follow her example.
I would choose especially three virtues of the Blessed Virgin. A
family must be convinced that these three virtues are necessary even
for the preservation of the family, and of course for its
sanctification. The three virtues I specially recommend are Mary’s
invoke Mary as “Virgin Most Faithful,” but seldom ask ourselves,
“what exactly does this mean?” It means above all that Mary, unlike
her Son but like us, had to live on faith. She had to believe that
the Child she conceived at Nazareth was her God.
She had to believe, without really understanding how, that the
helpless Babe in her arms at Bethlehem was the Creator of heaven and
She had to believe that the young boy she cared for and then the
young man she watched over and confided in was Yahweh who gave the
Ten Commandments to the Israelites and on the last day will come in
power and majesty to judge the living and the dead.
She had to believe that the Jesus who preached to the multitudes in
Palestine and was then unjustly condemned to death was the Author of
She believed as she stood under the Cross on Calvary that her Son
would rise glorious from the grave.
After His Ascension, she believed that He went to heaven and would
one day bring her to join Him in heavenly glory.
No wonder Elizabeth told Mary that she was blessed because she
believed in all the things that had been told her.
We return to our reflections on the family. How can a Catholic
Family in every age, and with emphasis in our age, be sanctified? It
can be sanctified only if every member of the family has a strong
unquestioning, simple yet enlightened faith.
We have no choice. Either, as families, we keep and grow—like
Mary—in the true faith, or we shall weaken, gasp for breath, and
To paraphrase a familiar saying, “A family that believes together,
stays together.” Faith in Jesus Christ, faith in the Church He
founded, faith in His Vicar on earth, faith in the Real Presence
made possible only because of Mary, faith in God’s providence, no
matter how mysterious or painful, faith like Mary’s, is the
foundation of family life and the bedrock of its sanctification.
We invoke Mary as “Mother Most Chaste,” and again we are liable to
overlook the profound depth of meaning hidden beneath these simple
They mean that Mary practiced the most perfect kind of chastity all
through her life. When told by the Angel that she was to become the
Mother of the Most High, she did not doubt this was possible, but
she did prudently ask, “How will this be done?” since she had
already consecrated her chastity to God.
Again, we turn to our meditation on the family. How can a Catholic
family survive in today’s sex-preoccupied world? In an age when
sexual pleasure is being hailed as mysticism, when marital
infertility is reduced to an exact science, and marital infidelity
has become a fine art, the Catholic family—every member of the
family—must practice chastity.
Then as the world tells us in print, radio and television that
chastity is humanly impossible, we turn to Our Lady. She was told
that nothing that God wants is impossible. With His grace chastity
is not only possible but practicable, in fact deeply enjoyable.
I consider these words to be my central message. The Blessed Virgin
is our great model and proof that God’s grace is stronger than our
human flesh; that God wants everyone, in every state of life to
practice chastity according to their different vocations.
Mary had her vocation and married people have theirs.
Mary had her vocation and unmarried people have theirs.
Mary had her vocation and children have theirs.
Mary had her vocation and all the members of a family have theirs.
But one thing we all have in common; we are all, without exception,
to practice chastity.
It is here that the Blessed Virgin, which I would restate as Happy
Chaste Person, is such an inspiration to Catholic families. Her
chastity proves that our chastity is not an empty dream or a
delusion. It is a real reality, provided, like Mary, we rely on the
power and grace of God.
I do not hesitate to say that, after faith, the single most
necessary virtue for a family to practice is sincere and selfless
The Church is so eager to remind us of Mary’s chastity as the
inspiration of our purity, that she has us address Our Lady as:
Mother most pure
Mother most chaste
seeking to impress us with the fact that if chastity is ridiculed by
the world, it is reverenced by those who, like Mary, humbly depend
on the graciousness of God.
We finally invoke Mary as Mother Most Amiable and Virgin Most
Merciful because of her extraordinary practice of charity.
She was amiable, or loving, especially towards Jesus and Joseph, and
she was merciful by forgiving, even as Jesus did, the murderers who
unjustly crucified her Son.
We are finally, for the last time, back to the sanctification of the
family. This time we ask ourselves, “How important is charity for
the sanctification of the family?” It is so important that, without
charity as amiability and charity as mercy, family life is
There is no true family without charity.
Husbands must love their wives, and wives their husbands—
Parents are to love their children and children love their
Brothers and sisters are to love one another, amiably, which
means kindly, and mercifully, which means patiently—after the
example of Mary the Mother of God.
We began this chapter with some statements from the Marxist Review.
Communism, we saw, aims to radically restructure society by
liberating women from the slavery of the family. And we know they
are succeeding remarkably in Europe and the Americas.
Before I close, let me appeal especially to women not to be seduced
by this propaganda. Your model of true freedom is Mary, the Mother
of the Holy Family. In your hands, you Catholic women, lies in large
measure the destiny of human society.
Follow Mary in entrusting your marvelous freedom to the will of God.
Allow Him to do to you, and for you and with you, “according to His
word.” Tell us, as Mary told the servants at Cana, “Do everything He
tells you to.”
Remind us, as Mary reminded the children of Fatima, to do penance
(suffer) and to pray—as families—for families throughout the world.
The sanctification of family life on earth is the promise of
glorification of family life in heaven. There, please God, we shall
all be reunited as families, in the company of the divine family of
Father, Son and Holy Spirit—never again to be separated or divided
for all eternity. Amen.
Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica
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