As a Catholic priest, grateful and devoted to Our Blessed Mother, Mary, I am reminded of a song by Billy Joel. In 1983, he sang “Tell Her About It.” In other words, we men should declare our love for the special woman we have in our lives by “telling her about it.”
When I turned in prayer to Mary, Mother of God, she led me to the priesthood. This part of my vocation story began in the spring of 1990 when Green Bay experienced a massive flood. All the basements in my neighborhood were flooded. When I went down to check our water level, I noticed my brown scapular and rosary, which I hadn’t seen since second grade, floating around in the grime. So, I went to the local Catholic bookstore, bought a new rosary, and started wearing a new brown scapular.
With my sacramentals replaced and my heart renewed, I started to say all three mysteries of the rosary every day. In less than two months, Mary led me back to confession, a sacrament I had not received in more than 17 years. I could hear her voice saying to me with clear direction, “How long are you going to wait? I want you to be one of my priests. Just keep being devoted to me, and I’ll take care of everything else.” Her voice helped me to seek forgiveness and hear my call to the priesthood in her Son, Jesus Christ.
“Mary plays a unique role in the life of a priest by guiding and directing him in his ministry.”
So, from that time on, I put my childlike trust in her. I developed a strong devotion to Mary through the prayers of the rosary and the veneration of her Immaculate Heart.
Whenever I had doubts,
I was reminded of what she, the Virgin of Guadalupe, said to Juan Diego when she appeared in Mexico, “Am I not your mother? Are you not in the mantle of my protection?” Those words took away his fear for his uncle’s health and restored his trust and obedience to the Blessed Virgin’s instructions. Those same words helped me overcome all my doubts. I discovered more and more that she had been giving me her motherly care all along, even when I hadn’t noticed. Because of her, I felt renewed strength on my path to the priesthood.
So when I was ordained, I took the motto of St. Louis de Montfort, “ad Jesus per Mariam” or “to Jesus through Mary.” I was drawn to adopt his sense of true devotion to Mary. Another influence in developing my priestly love for the Blessed Mother was Pope St. John Paul II. His great devotion to Mary is also expressed in his motto, “Totus Tuus” or “Totally Yours.” In 1980, reflecting personally on the priesthood of Christ, the work of his pontificate and especially the moment of his death, he wrote, “In life and in death [I am] Totus Tuus through Mary Immaculate.” Inspired by his words, I can say of my priesthood, “I am totally yours, O Mary,” and she strengthens my union with Christ, her Son.
Mary, Mother and Queen of the Clergy
For priests, this truth is heard in a special way from our Lord’s words on the cross. Jesus said to Mary, “Mother, behold your son,” and to John, “Son, behold your Mother.” In general, these teachings of the crucified Savior declare Mary the Mother of the whole Church. But particularly, through the apostleship of John, she is also named the mother of all priests. Mary plays a unique role in the life of a priest by guiding and directing him in his ministry. Mary also protects priests who turn to her from being harmed by the devil and his minions.
When the devil was kicked out of heaven, Mary took his place. So the devil has a special hatred for Mary and the priests devoted to her. When Mary said “yes” to the angel Gabriel, she consented to become the mother of the eternal high priest, Jesus Christ. So Mother and Son were united from the very beginning in the priestly sacrificial self-offering to the will of the Father. Mary stands behind her son and dedicates herself totally to His priestly mission as Mediator and Redeemer of all. Furthermore, her dedication did not end with Jesus’ death on the cross or with her own dormition. Since she was assumed and crowned as Queen of Heaven, the bond continues and is extended through the ages between Mary and every priest who participates in the ministerial priesthood of Christ.
So every priest can turn to Mary in a special way, as his Mother. Then she takes every priest into her care, just as she did for Jesus. But it is not automatic. We must say our “yes” to her every day and “tell her about it” by staying close to her and imitating her virtues.
Our Lady, Mother and Queen of the clergy, pray for us.
Father Tim Welles
Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Elk Mound and St. Joseph Parish in Rock Falls
Published in the September/October 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine