A consistent and constant theme for Pope Francis since is election is the theme of Mary acting as a protectress–as one who protects. Again, Pope Francis referred to the protection of Mary in a letter to the Superior General of the Jesuits. Before imparting his Apostolic Blessing, Pope Francis requested the prayers of his brother Jesuits:
With these sentiments I ask all Jesuits to pray for me and entrust me to the loving protection of Mary, our Mother in Heaven, while, as a pledge of abundant heavenly favours, I impart with special fondness my Apostolic Blessing, which I also extend to all those who work with the Society of Jesus in their activities, benefit from their good works, and partake of their spirituality.
Emphasizing Mary’s role as protectress is interesting. Why protectress? Let me suggest a few ideas as to how Mary acts as a protectress.
1. From Bernard of Clairvaux’s homily In Praise of the Virgin Mother, he poetically writes that in the midst of danger, trial, tribulation, one should call upon Mary. Bernard writes: When the wind of temptation blows up within you, when you strike upon the rock of tribulation, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary. … Following her, you will never go astray. Asking her help, you will never despair. Mary can help to protect us against temptation. She is the one who crushes the serpent’s head. The devil will try to bring down the Church and one way he does this is through the Church’s ministers. Let us pray through Mary’s intercession and protection, Pope Francis will be protected from the snares of the Evil One.
2. The prayers of the Madonna are powerful. Perhaps the request to entrust the pope to Mary’s loving protection is a call for us to ask Mary to protect him from harm or violence. It is a call for us to ask Mary to wrap her mantle of protection around Pope Francis, to safeguard him so he can persevere in his ministry.
Like any mother, Mary, our Mother in Heaven, loves, desires, and hopes that all Christians will return to the Lord with their whole heart. She wants to protect her children from the harm of war, envy, evil, etc. Under the inspiration of Pope Francis, who has revealed himself as dedicated to Mary’s role as a protectress, may we invoke Mary’s protection for our Holy Father, the Church, and the people of God.