German priest: Marian devotion is crucial to remaining in the true faith
November 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – In the midst of the many disturbances and confusions that are currently taking place in the Catholic Church, it is always good to remind ourselves of the beauty of our Catholic faith and the intimate role of the Blessed Mother in our lives.
LifeSite reached out to Father Frank Unterhalt, asking him for a comment on the role of Mary and also how he sees the fruits of Marian devotion in the life of the faith of his own parishioners in Germany, in the Archdiocese of Paderborn.
Father Unterhalt is the speaker of the priestly group Communio veritatis which is opposing some of the changes coming out of the Catholic Church in Rome, as well as in Germany, such as Communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics and Communion for remarried divorcees. They have asked Cardinal Reinhard Marx to resign from his office as president of the German Bishops' Conference because he is trying to adapt the Church to the Zeitgeist in our times, thus abusing his office.
In his statement to LifeSite, Pastor Unterhalt says: “Many faithful are asking themselves today how one can withstand the current storm of the great test and remain in the true Faith. I would like to answer that with the famous words of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima: 'My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way which leads you to God!'”
He goes on to show, with the help of many statements from saints, the beautiful role of the Blessed Mother in the history of salvation, starting with her Fiat at the moment of the Incarnation. The German priest points to Mary's motherly heart for mankind and insists that “the Immaculata, as Queen, is thus not far from us, but, rather, as Mother very close to us.” “The saints,” he adds, “give testimony to the ineffable motherly goodness of the most holy Virgin and her 'Supplicant Omnipotence' with God.”
Unterhalt also, based on his experience as a pastor, confirms the words of Pope John Paul II: “Holy Scripture and the experience of the faithful see in the Mother of God the one who is especially then close to the Church in the most difficult moments in her history when the attacks on the Church are the most threatening.”
Father Unterhalt encourages the consecration of the faithful to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and states that, in his experience, those faithful who have a strong Marian devotion seem to have an especially strong piety and closeness to the Sacraments.
He writes: “Indeed, it shows itself always that those faithful who have consecrated themselves to the Mother of God receive the light and the strength to remain loyal to the Lord. They are the ones who, with ties to the Mother of the Church, live the true faith in the parishes. Those faithful who have a Marian devotion find – led by her – the mercy of God in the confessional, and they adore Him in the Most Holy Eucharist on their knees, receiving Communion on the tongue.”
Father Pastor Unterhalt’s full statement
The Significance of the Immaculata as the Mediatrix of all Graces
Many faithful are asking themselves today how one can withstand the current storm of the great test and remain in the true Faith.
I would like to answer that with the famous words of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima: “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way which leads you to God!”
The Immaculata is [said St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe] the “most perfect and most sublime work of God. Saint Bonaventura says: 'God can create still a greater and more perfect world, but He cannot give a higher dignity to any creature than Mary.' [….] In the Immaculata, creation reaches the peak of its perfection. The Mother of God is the most God-like creature of all creatures” (St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Jedem ist der Weg gewiesen [To Each is Shown the Way], p. 55).
The Most Blessed Virgin has a unique relationship with the Triune God. She is the radiant masterwork of the Father, the chosen Mother of the Son, and the sublime Bride of the Holy Ghost. Saint Anselm argues in favor or her extraordinary beauty and says “that the Virgin, to whom God decided to give His Only Son, radiated in such great purity in a way not thinkable except for God” (De Conc. V. c. 18). Since she was called from eternity to be the Mother of the Redeemer, the Creator has given her the fullness of Graces. “And since it was solely in accordance with the infinite purity of God to have a mother preserved from any guilt, He created Himself one” (St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Die Herrlichkeiten Mariens, Zweiter Teil, 1. Kap. [The Glories of Mary, Second Part, 1st Chapter]).
Mary's election and her extraordinary place in God's salvific plan appear already in the Protoevangelium, in which she is shown as the great woman who is to crush the head of Satan (see Gen 3:15). She is the “enemies' wound that cannot heal” (Ὕμνος Ἀκάθιστος). In the order of salvation, she is the dawn from which emerges Christ, the Sun of Justice.
This truth becomes especially clear in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, that is to say the doctrine “that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first moment of her conception, by virtue of an exceptional privilege of Grace of the Omnipotent God, in light of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of Mankind, was preserved from any stain of Original Sin” (Bl. Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus).
The Perpetual Virgin is tota pulchra, and she has never known sin, and reflects in an absolute manner God's plan of love with man. “The serpent had no access to this paradise” (St. John of Damascus, In Dorm. Deip. or. 2).
As the Immaculata and Θεοτόκος [Bearer of God], she brings to the world Immanuel, the unique Redeemer and true Savior. No one could ever attain salvation without her.
Thus St. Irenaeus says that she “in her obedience became for herself and for the whole human race the cause of salvation” (Adv. Haer. II, 22,4).
After all, the Virgin Mary was not used by God in a passive manner – her Fiat came from the freedom of her person (see Vaticanum II, Lumen Gentium, 56). St. Bernhard of Clairvaux declares: “The prize of our salvation has been offered to you; we will be saved as soon as you give your consent. The Lord Himself, as much as He yearns for your beauty, as much he yearns for your consenting response, into which He has laid the salvation of the world” (De Laud. V. M. hom. 4). Her very humble Fiat to the message of the angel brings forth the all-decisive turn in history: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.” As the new Eve, she brought to the world which was lying in the darkness of sin and of death, the light of everlasting life. The Immaculata has received from the Holy Ghost and has borne for us the Savior, Who has taken His Human Nature from her. “Thus the one and same Jesus is, in His essence, the Son of both God and Mary. [….] He who has the power to create everything out of nothing did not want to restore the wounded creation without Mary [....] Because God begot the Son, through Whom everything was created, Mary bore Him, through Whom everything was saved” (St. Anselm of Canterbury, Oratio 52, PL 158, 955 seq.).
This position as mediatrix of the Mediator is clearly to be seen in Holy Scripture. While the humble maid of the Lord carried the Source of all Graces in her womb, she led her relative Elizabeth to the encounter with her Divine Son (see Luke 1:40-41) – she brings Christ to the people. At the Marriage Feast at Cana He Himself works His first miracle after the petition and the mediation of His Mother (see John 2:1-11). With the address “woman” Jesus shows the parallel to the Protoevangelium (see Gen. 3:15) and reinforces the prominent position of Mary in the history of salvation. She is deeply linked with the Mission of the Son, as it was already prophesied at the Presentation in the Temple (see Luke 2:34-35).
In the mystery of the Passion of Christ this truth receives a universal import. The words of the Savior Who is dying at the Cross – addressed both to Mary and to His beloved disciple John – have an immense importance: “Woman, behold your son – [Son], behold your mother!” (see John 19:26-27). Here, the Immaculata is being installed, at the peak of the work of redemption, as the Mediatrix of all Graces: “She who was once merely known as Mary is now being established publicly by the Savior as the Woman, the Mother, and the Mediatrix of all Graces of Redemption” (Dr. M. Miravalle, Maria Miterlöserin. Mittlerin. Fürsprecherin [Mary Co-Redeemer, Mediatrix, Avocate], S. 35).
This mystery shows itself especially on Pentecost (see Acts 1:14), because here we see the Apostles and disciples of the Lord with the Mother, praying together, and “Mary, with her prayers pleading for the gift of the Holy Ghost Who had overshadowed her already at the Annunciation” (Lumen Gentium, 59). The Most Blessed Virgin is the true Mother of the Church and mediates between her Son and men. “Wherefore she is our Mother in the order of grace. This maternity of Mary in the order of grace [...] lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect (Ibid., 61-62). Her bodily Assumption into heaven and her Coronation as Queen manifest this unique position in the history of salvation, in its universal dimension: “A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apoc. 12:1).
Out of this flows the momentous significance of the Immaculata with regard to the salvation of man, as it shows itself clearly for our time in the message of Fatima: “God wishes to establish the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. To him who accepts it I promise salvation!” The saints have always been aware of this, and they have practiced this devotion heroically. “Nobody comes to heaven but through Mary,” said St. Klemens Maria Hofbauer (Prof. Dr. F. Holböck, Geführt von Maria [Led by Mary], S. 443. The practice of the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the key to paradise whose gate she is (see Litany of Loreto).
“For, the Almighty who exalts the lowly has ordained that heaven, earth, and the underworld – whether they wish it or not – have to bow under the scepter of the humble Virgin; and thus He lifted Mary up and made her the Queen of heaven and earth; the head of His heavenly hosts; the treasurer of His treasures; the dispenser of His Graces; the instrument of His Great Miracles; the Redemptrix of mankind; the Mediatrix of the chosen ones; the destroyer of God's enemies and the loyal companion of His Glory and of His Triumphs” (St. Louis Marie de Monfort, The Golden Book, First Part, Chapter 1).
Therefore, the Almighty and Merciful God could not have raised the Immaculata to a higher place than the one He has chosen for her. He has given her the fullness of Graces so that they come to us through motherly ways. St. Alphonsus Maria of Liguori explains that it is “the Will of God that all Graces which come to mankind by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ since then and until the end of the world will be given to them through the hand and the mediation of Mary” (The Glories of Mary, First Part, Chapter 5).
The Immaculata, as Queen, is thus not far from us, but, rather, as Mother very close to us. The saints give testimony to the ineffable motherly goodness of the most holy Virgin and her “Supplicant Omnipotence“ with God. “The heart of May is so loving and tender with us that, taken the hearts of all the mothers together, would be nothing compared to hers [….] Everything that the Son asks the Father, is being granted to Him. Everything that the Mother asks the Son, is equally being granted to her” (J. Frossard, Ausgewählte Gedanken des heiligen Pfarrers von Ars [A Selection of Thoughts from the Holy Curé of Ars], p. 77). She deserves our great love and our firm trust. Both lead to the consecration to her Immaculate Heart, because Christianity always knew that a child of Mary never gets lost: “The heart of this good mother does not only consist of love and mercy. Her single wish is to see us happy. One only has to turn to her, in order to be heard” (Ibid., p. 48).
With this background, my personal experience corresponds completely to what St. Pope John Paul II said prophetically forty years ago, on October 6, 1979, in the Cathedral St. Matthew in Washington: “Holy Scripture and the experience of the faithful see in the Mother of God the one who is especially then close to the Church in the most difficult moments in her history when the attacks on the Church are the most threatening.”
Indeed, it shows itself always that those faithful who have consecrated themselves to the Mother of God receive the light and the strength to remain loyal to the Lord. They are the ones who, with ties to the Mother of the Church, live the true faith in the parishes. Those faithful who have a Marian devotion find – led by her – the mercy of God in the confessional, and they adore Him in the Most Holy Eucharist on their knees, receiving Communion on the tongue. The “totus tuus” strengthens them on their path of the Commandments, and the rosary gives them the efficacious help from above. The children of Mary will always let themselves be led by Holy Scripture and by the Catechism and thus remain in the revealed truth. On this path, through the mediation of the Mother of the Redeemer, they reach the longed-for salvation.
Translation by LifeSiteNews' Maike Hickson