Lincoln and Mary

Abraham Lincoln was no stranger to Mary the Mother of God. He once told the story during a Cabinet meeting of an Italian captain whose ship was punctured when it struck a rock. The captain set his men bailing water while he said a prayer to a statue of the Virgin Mary in the bowel of the ship. The water continued to pour in and it appeared the vessel would be lost. The captain, in a fit of rage at not having his prayers answered, seized the statute of Mary and threw it overboard. Suddenly the leak stopped and the ship was able to sail safely into port. When docked for repairs, the Virgin Mary statue was found stuck head-first in the hole.

Lincoln, in explaining the application of his story, said, “I don’t intend precisely to throw the Virgin Mary overboard, and by that I mean the constitution, but I will stick it in the hole if I can. These rebels are violating the constitution to destroy the Union. I will violate the constitution if necessary to save the Union.”

The President believed the constitution was a means to the end—the end being the preservation of the Union. It is a bit like, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mk 2:27). Mary likewise is not the final destination. She is the means to Jesus Christ. When we pray to Mary we will always be led to God. Mary, as all mothers do, puts herself aside for the higher cause.

Lincoln remarked on another occasion, “I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” Mothers help their children. So does Mary, the Mother of God and of us.

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