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The Blessed Virgin and the Sanctification of the Family

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Some 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.”

The 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 society.

What is 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 commonplace.

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 from Communism.

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 fourteen.

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 day.

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 society.

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 day.

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 families.”

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 family?

Her role, I do not hesitate to say, is not only important but indispensable. How?

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 families.

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 Holy Rosary.

  • 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.

These 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 Son.

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.

Imitating Mary

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

  • faith

  • chastity and

  • charity.

We 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 earth.

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 Life.

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 die—as families.

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 words.

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 chastity.

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

  • Mother inviolate

  • Mother undefiled

always 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 impossible.

  • 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 parents—

  • 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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