A former pupil of Shalom Academy, Nsukka, Enugu State, Chinecherem Cynthia Ali, whose story went viral after she made A grade in all the subjects she took in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, shares her success story with TOLUWANI ENIOLA
Please introduce yourself.
I hail from Umuagama community in Enugu State. I am the third of eight children. I am 18 years old. I attended Shalom Academy in Nsukka, Enugu State. My parents are not so rich but they gave me adequate care. My dad is a teacher. He also has a poultry farm. My mother works as a medical lab scientist in a district hospital.
You became the first pupil in your school to earn A grade in all the subjects you sat for in WASSCE. What motivated you to achieve the feat?
While I was in school, my priority was to make a wonderful result. I had clarity of purpose in what I wanted to achieve. My elder brother was the chief motivator. He made six As in his WASSCE last year. He told me I could do better than he did. He planted that goal to surpass his feat in me. Whenever I had a problem with my studies, he was always around to help me out. He practically taught me the techniques to excel in the subjects. He prepared my mind about the syllabus in SS3, who the teachers were and what would enable me to get the best from each of them.
He told me I needed to put in extra efforts in whatever I was doing. On my first day in school, when I got to SS1, my chemistry teacher called me and told me certain things about my goal. He told me no one had ever made nine As in the school. He said he heard an inner voice that I could break the record. I was just laughing when he told me. I had a note which I titled, “My future WASSCE results.”
I wrote down my results on the note, filling As across all the subjects I was to sit for. I prayed to God to help me achieve the goal. My friends who saw the note said I was going crazy. But I told God to help me. Another teacher that helped me a great deal was my biology teacher. She prepared a study timetable for me to follow. She told me to study at least two hours at a stretch. The two teachers (chemistry and biology) told me my goal was achievable.
Have you always had an excellent result like this?
By God grace, I have always excelled in my studies. My results were always among the best.
What did you say when you saw your outstanding result?
I was overwhelmed with joy. It was a record-breaking result because no one had ever made that result in my school. On that day, I was sleeping. My brother came to wake me up and broke the news. When I saw it, I thought I was dreaming.
How many hours did you study daily?
In our school, we were mandated to observe our preparatory classes for day students. From 2.30pm to 4pm, I would go home to cook and do other things I needed to do till around 7pm. From 7pm till 10pm, I was always reading my books daily. Sometimes, I could set aside five or six hours to read.
How did you cope with the distractions from boys in school?
I never had a boyfriend. One thing I learnt along the line was that once one is serious with one’s studies, it will be difficult for boys to approach one for a relationship. When I was in SS1, one day I entered the class. There was this male classmate of mine who was always disturbing me. I was reading my book. We had just finished the computer practical. Others were discussing while I was reading my book. Then the boy said, “What’s the problem with you? Is it that you cannot rest, at least talk to people.”
He said I didn’t need to be reading every time. I was able to overcome the pressures of male pupils because I didn’t entertain any unserious talks. They knew me for that so they avoided me. Also, I was a day student, so I spent most of my time in class. We had preparatory classes by 4pm so I was always at home when I was not in school. This made it impossible for any boy to approach me. Maybe if I was in the boarding school, it would have been a different story. I am a quiet girl. Because I rarely had time to chat with others, they said I was a proud girl. But I taught a few of my classmates in my spare time.
What subject was the most challenging for you and how did you overcome it?
I think physics posed the greatest challenge. I always found it hard comprehending the subject. The situation changed when I got to SS3. Our physics teacher always gave us tests every week. If you failed the test, he would cane you. I was afraid of his cane. I then made up my mind to study hard. Along the line, I realised that physics was not even as difficult as I thought. Mathematics was easy for me. God was just helping me at every stage. I found out that I understood what I was taught quickly. We had five mathematics teachers. While in school, mathematics was divided into five areas. We had separate teachers for arithmetic, algebra, statistics, geometry and vector. Each of these subjects was taught separately. The way mathematics was split into five areas really helped me to have a thorough understanding of the subject. I usually excelled in my mathematics examinations even without studying. I love the subject so much.
How did you feel meeting the Enugu State governor?
I thank God for the privilege to meet the governor at my age. I am grateful to God for making it possible. Thousands of pupils in our state would like to meet the governor. For me, it is one of the most memorable moments of my life as I shook hands with the governor. The governor congratulated me and said the commissioner for education would reach out to me.
Later, I was told that the governor had given me a scholarship to study in any university of my choice in Nigeria and a prize of N1m. I felt overwhelmed. I never believed that I would be a beneficiary of a scholarship. I appreciate the government for this noble gesture.
What role did your parents play in your success?
My dad is an English teacher. He always encouraged us. He taught us English after school hours. He made sure I didn’t use a mobile phone. Once I got to secondary school, I neither used a phone nor had access to any gadget. It was a serious offence at home. It really helped me because if I had a mobile, I would have been distracted. I might have spent less time on my studies. My mum always encouraged me too. She told me that when she was my age, she excelled in her studies too. She emphasised that I could break the record. When I was in primary school, my father supported me with extra lessons at home. He also got part-time teachers for me.
Do you think you are a genius?
I don’t think I am one. I think anyone who studied hard and relied on God can make a similar feat.
What is the next step for you?
I want to study medicine. I chose medicine because I believe it would enable me to save lives. It is also a noble profession.
What did you score in the UTME?
The UTME was out before I took WASSCE. I scored 266. I was discouraged when I saw the result because I felt I should have got above 300 marks. The good thing is that they also use the WASSCE result to select candidates. They grade prospective candidates, using 60 per cent for the UTME and 40 per cent for the WASSCE result. When I saw my UTME results, I was just praying to God to excel in WASSCE result a wonderful one. When our principal saw my UTME result, he didn’t believe that it was my result because he expected more from me. UTME was very easy for me and I was disappointed when I saw the score.
Which schools did you apply to?
I applied to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Ebonyi State University. The universities have not started issuing admission letters. They have started uploading the results. The cut off mark for medicine is 290 or so in UNN last year. I checked my result and it was 319.6, so I am hopeful I would be admitted.
Why don’t you study abroad instead?
I want to study in Nigeria first. I guess I am too young to study outside the country all alone. But I would like to do postgraduate studies abroad.
Was cramming part of your studying methods?
I am not good at cramming books. I develop many codes to remember what I read.
What are the most remarkable lessons you have learnt from your success?
I think the most important part of my success story is to do one’s best and to trust in God. I always believe that it’s only God that can enable me to fulfil my destiny. Punch
It is no longer news that a Catholic priest in person of Rev. Fr. Mathew Oguleri was recently kidnapped. The good news, however, is that the Bishop of Ijebu-Ode diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Albert Ayinde Fashina, the priests and indeed the entire lay faithful of the diocese are now in jubilant mood.
This followes the recent release of Rev Fr Oguleru who was abducted by kidnappers penultimate week while going for morning Mass, along Ilado, Ibefun Ikorodu Road.
The news of Fr. Oguleru’s adoption had thrown the entire Catholic community not only in Ije-Ode but also in Lagos Archdiocese off-balance. This is because he was a well know face, being a lecturer in one of educational institutions in the Archdiocese and having worked in few parishes also
Few days after his abduction, the social media was agog with the rumour that the kidnappers had contacted his family members and demanded as ransom the sum of N80 million naira before he could be released.
However, true to the position of the CBCN never to pay ransom, Bishop Albert Fasina promptly issued a statement allaying the fear of his flock and calling for prayers for his release.
Hear him, “Our Diocese has been going through untold pains with the abduction of our brother, Rev. Fr. Mathew Oguleru of Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Ilado by some unknown men. Fr Oguleru was abducted on his way to morning Mass at Ososa on the 21st of June, 2017. This unfortunate and sad event which is a test of our faith in God, is capable of inducing fear in us and enslaving us. As children of God, we must not be cowed by the devil and his agents. Rather, let us remain strong and continue to hope in God, who is the source of life so that we would have our brother return to us safe and sound.”
Bishop Fasina further requested that there should be Benediction in all parishes in the diocese on Sunday 25th June, 2017 by 5pm, coupled with fasting and praying of the rosary.
The prayer worked as the kidnapped priest was eventually released less than 48 hours after the bishop’s statement. It was not clear if any ransom was paid.
Meanwhile, all effort to reach the priest proved abortive as he was taken to an unknown destination to get adequate rest and recover from the trauma that accompanied his ordeal.
…” I hoped for a miracle…every minute I’d pray saying all kinds of prayers, I’d pray to Saint Ignatius, say the rosary and the Divine Mercy (chaplet)…at one time I found myself singing heartily but in the inside, a Ghanaian song that says ‘God speak to me…God where are you?’ I kept humming in my heart …it gave me hope”
… “This has also given me an understanding to accompany those who come to me for help seeking solace, encouragement, strength, hope, renewal…you know…maybe that’s why it happened”
Samuel Okwuidegbe, a Jesuit priest, has relived the experience during the three days he spent in the camp of suspected herdsmen, who abducted him on Benin-Asaba highway, while on his way to a retreat in Onitsha, Anambra state.
According to a story published on the website of the Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar, Okwuidegbe recalled how his faith carried him through a traumatic and harrowing experience of kidnapping.
He took the seemingly safe highway on which he had travelled many times on the day of his abduction and was surprised when he heard gunshots.
“On glancing back I saw all the vehicles behind me stopping, and trying to reverse … that’s when it hit me that there was something dangerous ahead of me,” he recalled.
“On looking up I saw masked men with AK47 rifles shooting. I was so scared. I also stopped my car abruptly and began to reverse, but as I was trying to do that, a man suddenly appeared and said, ‘If you don’t get out of the car I’ll shoot you.’”
The priest could see behind him that the men had also stopped another car, a black Mercedes, and were forcing two men out of the car. In a hurry, he left his phone in the car.
He quickly identified the armed kidnappers as herdsmen, a violent group whose clashes with farmers have killed thousands of people in Nigeria over the past two decades and were the fourth most violent militant group in the world in 2014 according to the Global Terrorism Index.
The kidnappers led Okwuidegbe and the other two men into the forest at gunpoint for eight hours, barely stopping for breaks. They eventually let one of the two other men go, because he could not keep up with the pace, but they first cut his feet so that he could not escape quickly, Okwuidegbe recalled.
“The pace in the forest was jogging, jumping over tree trumps, going over leaves, which often cut through our skin. So it was quite brutal!” Okwuidegbe said.
“I was so shaken, and began to ask myself, is this happening to me? What am I doing in this forest? What am I doing here? I felt extremely cold and in my confusion … I’d mutter to myself, this can’t be happening, God. This can’t be happening.”
The captors started questioning Okwuidegbe and the other man, and were suspicious when he identified himself as a priest; they thought he might be a government spy. They stripped him of all his belongings – his watch, wallet, and rosary.
When they questioned him about his phone, the captors were enraged that he had left it in his car – which was fortunate, the priest said because he had saved financial information from his work on it.
The militants asked him if he could remember anyone’s number – someone to call who could negotiate for his life and pay off the herdsmen.
Traumatised by his experience, he could not remember one phone number.
“That triggered a series of beatings…they huddled me up, hands and feet tied to the back with a rope like a goat before a kill. They removed my cassock, then my shirt, threw me into the dirt on the ground, and began to beat me with the back of their guns, they’d kick me hard on my sides, slap across my face, push and pull me hard across the ground…one of them said ‘We are going to burn you alive!’” the priest recalled.
“I really believed that they were going to do it…I began to pray in silence…I said, ‘God, I commit to you, I commit my spirit’ and I resigned to the thought of my fate, that I was going to die that day.’”
Finally, the beating stopped. Okwuidegbe said he remembered praying constantly through the whole experience.
“I hoped for a miracle…every minute I’d pray saying all kinds of prayers, I’d pray to Saint Ignatius, say the rosary and the Divine Mercy (chaplet)…at one time I found myself singing heartily but in the inside, a Ghanaian song that says ‘God speak to me…God where are you?’ I kept humming in my heart…it gave me hope,” he said.
Eventually, Okwuidegbe was able to get the phone number of another Jesuit priest through the contact of the other man in captivity. This priest, Jude Odiaka, Jesuit provincial, began negotiations with the herdsmen.
And while at times he prayed for death, Okwuidegbe said he felt better once he had made contact with the Jesuits.
“I knew that word must have gotten around about the kidnapping, and that the sisters at the retreat centre and people who knew me all over, must have been praying for me.”
The other man who had been captured with Okwuidegbe also was a great comfort, he recalled.
“…the guy I was kidnapped with…he was a grace for me, a gift from God. I hope I was too for him because we exchanged words of encouragement silently, as we were not allowed to talk to each (other).”
Finally, the captors seemed to have got what they wanted and started talking about letting the men go.
“I intensified my prayers and I prayed to God ‘Please God, make this end well,’” he said.
“I recalled a saying that ‘God will not bring you this far, then abandon you’, so this brought some assurance to my heart,”
When the militants decided to release the men, they were left to wander alone together through the forest, trying to find the pathway out. Eventually, they were able to make it to safety and back home.
While the experience was “painful and traumatising,” Okwuidegbe said one of the best consolations upon his return was hearing from many people, near and far, that they had been praying for him.
“In all these things God revealed to me that I was never abandoned while in the forest, even if I was out of reach and in danger, that God heard the prayers and was with me,” he said.
“It has renewed my faith in God, my faith in people…the human person, God’s gift of friendship and that if what I do matters, then also those people I do it with are also very important.”
Okwuidegbe said he also plans to use his experience to help other people in his work as a counsellor.
“This has also given me an understanding to accompany those who come to me for help seeking solace, encouragement, strength, hope, renewal…you know…maybe that’s why it happened,” he said.
“I’m going to use it in my work as a counsellor, psychologist and help those who come to me for help, because what support can be given to people that have been kidnapped? What help can we give such people? I think I have become part of that help with what I have received, and experienced.”
..The story of a Catholic Priest with one hand.
I am the fi rst person in the Nigerian Church to be ordained a Catholic priest with one hand – Rev. Fr. Benedict Sunday Chukwudi Okolo.
Tough times they say don’t last, but tough people do. This testimony of a Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Benedict Chukwudi Okolo, illustrates this well. The Anambra-born priest dreamt as a young boy to become an ordained priest. But fate dealt him a blow.He was involved in an auto crash and his left hand was amputated.
But he did not give up. In a feat or rare courage backed by determination and improvisation, Benedict dared the odds to realise his dream to serve in the Lord’s vineyard as a Priest. It was not easy but he made it. He speaks. “I am Rev. Fr. Benedict Sunday-ChukwudiOkolo, a Vincentian Priest.
I come from a village called Umuilem in Ufuma, Awka Diocese, Anambra State. That is also where I grew up. My father is a catechist and also a teacher. I am the fifth child out of the eight children of my parents. When I was growing up, I used to go to church with him and from there I started having the inspiration of becoming a Catholic priest. I joined the altar servers at a very tender age.
My desire to become a Catholic priest started when I was still a child. I remember vividly that after a morning mass on one of those days, the Parish Priest asked if there were any of us among the altar servers who would want to participate in the common entrance to the Seminary.
I could not join the seminary that year because I was not successful at the interview. After my senior secondary education, I started applying again to join the seminary. Eventually, the Vincentians invited me in 1999 and I started at Enugu.”
The auto crash that led to the amputation of his left happened in his third year at Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu, few weeks to his vow to become a priest. He had gone for holiday after Theology 111 for the work to do at home.
The apostolic work over, he was sent to his home Diocese and the vocation director posted him to a Parish in the diocese to work at Immaculate Heart Parish, Uga for six weeks. A day before the closing date of his Parish work, he took his father’s car to collect his belongings from the Parish house.
Morning of the closing date, he decided to drop off my other colleagues in their homes before coming back to carry his personal property. It was getting late. He was stressed up and did not eat throughout the day. That made him loses strength and concentration.
He started to doze on the steering. “I noticed I was dozing while driving. In an effort to remain alert, I engaged the car music system, raised the volume, lowered the car windows and increased the motion so I could get home faster and sleep. I hadn’t experienced this before. The music was to distract the sleep. Rather than distract the sleep all those efforts aggravated the dozing and I slept off.”
“The next thing I saw was the car running into a gutter. I tried matching the break, but instead I matched the accelerator and the car hit a culvert and somersaulted. While the car was somersaulting, I tried to defend myself and my left hand went outside so the car fell on my hand. With the movement my hand was crushed.” That was how young Benedict lost his left hand.
He explains the tragedy. “I went on a little trance, came back and saw people all over the place. I begged them to take me to the hospital. Luckily, a passerby named Abbey Oko drove me from Umuchu in Aguata, where the accident occurred, to Boromeo Hospital Onitsha.
He thought I was a priest because I was wearing my cassock. On the way to the hospital, I managed to bring out my phone and informed my sisters that I was involved in an accident and was on my way to the hospital.
When the accident occurred, I saw blood pumping out of the crushed hand with just a tiny flesh holding the lower part of the hand.
Becoming afraid that the car could go on flame I quickly put off the ignition, and came out on my own through the car window.
When I climbed out of the crashed car and noticed that it was only a tiny flesh holding the lower part of the hand I slumped.” By the time Benedict got to the hospital, he had bled a lot and was very weak. He drifted from consciousness and unconsciousness just as the doctors and nurses contemplated whether to amputate the hand or not.
He told them, “If loosing this hand would help me to survive please cut it off. I want to live. I don’t think I have accomplished what God has sent me to do.” At this point he slept off. He woke up much later in the night to notice that some priests had come to the hospital and decided the hand should be amputated.
He left hospital in September same year. The struggle and adapt to his new physical condition started. That period came with plenty of consolation and prayers from Priests, prayer groups, family members, friends and relations.
To overcome the trauma, Bendict made an early decision: Say no to self pity and regret. He needed to be in the right frame of mind to overcome the challenge.
Many thoughts raged through his mind about his past life and he saw the accident as a consequence of his past wrongs. A priest had told him years back that Priesthood would be a difficult work for him. He wondered if it was a curse and probably the accident would indeed make the work difficult.
His family members were confused. Something is wrong somewhere. Someone did this, they concluded. This was thick because Benedict’s father suffered a car crash few days before his own with same car. His father feared he would not become a Priest after all.
How can a Priest function with one hand? Something they saw a blessing for the family was eluding them. His family was shattered.
He explains: Our Provincial precisely, Rev Fr Michael Ngaoka, was our Philosophy Director, before he was made the Provincial, he knew me. He did not want to act without verifying and checking very well. He had to write to Rome and called all the Canonists he knew to make enquiries concerning my situation.
He told me one day at the hospital not to be afraid, that the Pope had instructed that I would be ordained only on some conditions after my discharge from the hospital and that he did not see the conditions as those that would fail.”
He was happy to be alive and basked in the love and support class mates and family members. Pain was a challenge but it reduced with time.
After his discharge from the hospital, he was told the Vatican said he should undergo psychotherapy after which he should confirm if he actually wants to be ordained a priest.
“I did the psychotherapy for three months. After I was certifi ed mentally suitable, they started working on my ordination. When I was called upon to confi rm that I still wanted to be ordained a priest, I actually contemplated on it and saw it as something that was still possible.
“Despite the amputation of my left hand, my right hand was still normal to bless people and while in the hospital I had started contemplating on how I would do many things like swinging the incense, how to dress myself with one hand and things like that.
People also started giving me the idea of artificial hand but I did not want to anchor my mind on that. So I put it into writing that I was going to continue with the priesthood and continued with the vow.
Faith in God
Benedict’s experience made him see God as a good provider despite the situation – “A God who does not abandon us despite our situation of weakness.
I started having abilities instead of disability to do things that ordinarily the normal person could not imagine I could do.”
Looking back at his travail, Benedict says: We are what God says we should be. What we become is what God wants us to be.
He concludes: “I have told God that since he allowed me to become a Priest; the testimony is that I am the first person in the Nigerian Church to be ordained a Catholic Priest with one hand. Pope Benedict XVI did that great mercy for me, when he gave me the opportunity to decide to be ordained a priest.
He was very sick and did not respond to medical treatment … his parent’s relations said he should be thrown away …his mother refused and took him to God and prayed, “God, if you heal this boy, I will give him back to you.” …he was healed …he passed through a Minor Seminary without the knowledge of his parents …he became a Catholic Priest …he founded the Catholic Adoration Ministry (CAM) where barren women conceive, the sick and dumb are healed, orphans and widows get help …The person is Rev Fr. Cyriacus Nnadozie Onwughalu.
His mother may not have realised the weight of her promise to God when on that faithful afternoon, she placed her very sick and almost dying boy-child on the central eye of the altar of Holy Family Catholic Cathedral, Sokoto and prayed, “God if you heal this boy, I will give him back to you.”
The boy was healed, but his mother forgot she made a covenant with God. Not until more than 30 years later when her son lay on the same spot, in same Cathedral, to be ordained a Priest that she remembered her vow to God, and burst into tears.
Today, Fr. CY, as he is fondly called by friends and parishioners, is the Parish Priest of St Mary’s Catholic Church, Argungu, Kebbi State in Sokoto Diocese. He is also the Youth Chaplain in the Diocese and Province, and Ministers the Catholic Adoration Ministry (CAM) of St Mary’s Catholic Church.
Not only did his mother forget her covenant with God over her son, she and her husband did not know when the boy entered the Minor Seminary till he was about to enter Major Seminary. Fr. CY tells the story “When I fi nished my primary school in Sokoto, I was asked by my parents to go and stay with my grand-mother in the village.
It was from there that I became a Mass Server. From there I joined the Minor Seminary. My parents didn’t know I was in the Seminary. Only my grandparents did and they trained me all through my days in the Minor Seminary. It was when it was time for me to go to Major Seminary that I had to return to Sokoto. Even at this point my mother never remembered she made such a promise.”
He recalls, “During my priestly ordination, each time I looked at my mother, she was always crying. I never knew her reason for crying. It was after the ordination process that she explained to me that there was a promise she made to God when I was an infant and that it was during my ordination that she remembered it. According to her, when I was a little child, I took very ill and was not responding to any medical treatment. She explained that on one occasion my parents, my uncle and I were traveling from Sokoto to the East and that I cried from Sokoto to Zaria. In Zaria they decided that it was either I was thrown away or my mother returned to Sokoto with me.
My mother said she opted to return to Sokoto with me rather than throw me away. As soon as she got back to Sokoto, she went straight to the Cathedral and placed me at the central eye of the altar and prayed to God, “If you heal this child, I will give him back to you.” He continues. “At my ordination, it was the same spot my mother kept me when I was a sick infant that I lay down and was ordained a priest. It was exactly at that moment that my mother remembered that over 30 years ago, she dropped me at that very spot to pray for my healing and made a promise to God to give me back to Him if He healed me, and at that same spot I was being made a priest.”
God so designed it that Fr. CY would not be ordained in the East; otherwise he would have continued his Major Seminary there. It was God’s arrangement that Fr. CY should come back to the place where her mother made a promise to give him back to his Healer. The priest explains.
“My mother has been a woman of very strong faith. I know she has always committed her life to God. She is very prayerful and puts God before every other thing. She was a leader of the Catholic Women Organisation (CWO) when she was in Sokoto and also a leader now in my village.
For the over 30 years that I have known her, once it is 5:00am, I know she would be praying around the altar in the house and never misses her morning Mass. She has infl uenced and encouraged me a lot. I know the faith that I have drawn from my mother is what is helping me. I pray God would keep her alive to reap the fruit of her labour.” Apart from being a Catholic Priest, Fr. CY is also a good panel-beater. If not the grace of God that took him to Priesthood, he would have been a professional panelbeater.
Like Jesus who served as an apprentice carpenter under his father, Joseph, Fr. CY learned the craft of panel- beating while helping his father, a professional panel beater, in his workshop. Like Jesus, he abandoned the skill he acquired from his earthly father and answered the call of his Heavenly Father – beating battered bodies and souls back to alignment to the glory of God. Through the power of prayers of Catholic Adoration Ministry he founded in 2013, many people have been healed. “Before I became a Priest, I asked from God for the gift of praying for those longing for the fruit of the womb. Since that time, it has been so. Many of those who have been coming for the fruit of the womb have conceived.
We have had several of such children dedicated and baptised in Abuja and other places. Many women have come to CAM and got the fruit of the womb. Many others who tested HIV positive and who participated constantly in our adoration have gotten their healing. We have testimonies.
There have been cases of people with heavy hearts such as having bad dreams and fears who have been relieved. There have also been cases of people who were possessed; people who even got violent and abused the Priest during prayers; but constantly came for adoration who have received healing. There have also been cases of people who have been having body pains who have received healing and the dumb healed,” Fr. CY testifies.
Where does the title, “Mary, Mother of Mercy,” come from? We have many popular prayers that speak of Mary as Mother of Mercy.
For example, “Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy” … and, later: “turn, then, your eyes of mercy towards us.” In another prayer, the Memorare, we hear: “To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful, O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions but in your mercy, hear and answer me.” Moreover, in the lives of the saints, we hear Mary referred to as “Mother of mercy.”
In the Miraculous Medal. We ask Mary to implore God’s mercy for us. We admist our sinfulness. We say “pray for us who have recourse to thee”. Once, St. Mari Faustina Kowalska had a vision of the Blessed Mother. Mary said to Sr. Faustina: “I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy, and your Mother” (Diary of St. Faustina, 330).
Also, Pope John Paul II refers to Mary as Mother of Mercy in his 1980 encyclical, Dives in Misericordia: Mary is also the one who obtained mercy in a particular and exceptional way … Mary, then, is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy. She knows its price, she knows how great it is. In this sense, we call her the “Mother of mercy” (§9).
Note that the Hebrew word for mercy, rahamim, comes from rehem, a mother’s womb. God’s mercy must have something of a maternal warmth about it—unconditional, intimate, and nurturing love, symbolized by a mother’s womb. God’s mercy is, therefore, tender and affectionate, lifegiving and indispensable. God chose Mary to reveal this merciful love to us.
Therefore, we need Mary in our lives as Christians. Many people, many sects, will tell you that you don’t need Mother Mary.
Have you heard that? One elderly Jesuit I know told me once that some people were arguing about how we don’t need Mary in order to know Jesus. They told him to go directly to Jesus. He replied that God has given us Mary for a reason, suggesting finally: “Okay, you go directly to Jesus; I will go through Mary. And we will see who gets there first!”
God has given us a mother for a reason. At the foot of the cross, Jesus said to his beloved disciple, St. John: “Here is your Mother,” and he said to Mary: “Here is your son” (Jn 19:27). Mary was able to stand fi rm at the foot of the cross a merciful love is a strong love! Merciful love is capable of withstanding the cross; capable of withstanding difficulties and challenges.
How many times in our lives are we in need of that firm and strong love of Mother Mary? Do you know the statue by Michaelangelo, called the Pieta? Mary is holding the dead body of Jesus in her hands. The left hand is small and feminine, but the right hand is under Jesus, supporting the weight of his body.
What does it mean? It means that the love of Mary is gentle and feminine, yet, also strong and fi rm. It is a love that does not give up. St Paul even said that love believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things—the mercy of God, likewise, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.
Let us ask for God’s mercy through her. On April 12, 2015, Pope Francis will declare the Jubilee of the Holy Year of Mercy which begins on December 8, 2015, Feast of the Immaculate Conception.