As Christ hung dying on the cross, he placed his Blessed Mother under the care of his apostle, St. John the Evangelist. “Behold your mother,” Christ said to John, and by extension, Jesus said the same to us. Mary is our spiritual mother — the most loving mother the world has ever known because she counts as her children all of humankind.

The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “Every person carries in his heart a blueprint of the one he loves.” And among Catholics and Orthodox Christians, no saint is more beloved than Mary.

I suppose all mothers both know and yet do not completely know everything about their children — this was especially the case for Mary. That God chose her from among all women to be the mother of the savior was a mystery that, during her earthly life, she never entirely understood. In his Gospel, St. Luke tells us that Mary pondered, or meditated upon, this mystery in her heart. To look at him, her son Jesus was in every respect fully human, except that unlike us he never committed any sin. Yet he was also fully God, which he first revealed at a wedding at Cana when, at his mother’s request, he spared the bride and groom  embarrassment by changing water into fine vintage wine.

We can imagine Mary’s pride when Jesus began his public ministry and by his teaching showed the world the way to salvation, and by his miracles showed God’s compassion and mercy to a sick, suffering world. We can also imagine her intense emotional agony as she followed her son as he was humiliated, tortured and crucified. There is no more poignant image of Mary than the Pietà — the heartbroken mother holding in her arms the body of her lifeless child. Any parent who has lost a child knows exactly how Mary felt at that moment.

Today in the great shrines of Lourdes, Fatima and Guadalupe, in parish churches, chapels and oratories, in some silent corner of the heart, millions call on Mary for help. She is, as Blessed Pope Pius IX said in 1851, “the best of mothers, our safest confidante … the very motive of our hope.”

The major feasts of Our Lady are:
• Jan. 1 (Mary, Mother of God)
• March 25 (Annunciation)
• May 31 (Visitation)
• Aug. 15 (Assumption)
• Aug. 22 (Queenship of Mary)
• Sept. 8 (Nativity of Mary)
• Sept. 15 (Our Lady of Sorrows)
• Oct. 7 (Our Lady of the Rosary)
• Nov. 21 (Presentation of Mary)
• Dec. 8 (Immaculate Conception)

In addition to being the patron of mothers, Our Lady is the patron saint of women in childbirth,
nuns, religious vocations and of countless cities, towns and countries, including the United States, under her title the Immaculate Conception.

Thomas Craughwell is the author of many books, including “Saints Behaving Badly” and “This Saint Will Change Your Life”.