SOMETHING ABOUT MARY
There’s something about Mary!
I’d be lying if I say I knew exactly what this meant, following my conversion in 2004. My journey to Catholicism has been long and wrecked with confusion. Among many things, Mary was a big deal. I struggled with Our Lady’s place in the life of the Church. I found her overrated and impenetrable. I found her removed from the struggles and insanity of life. And I saw devotions towards her, as an unnecessary layer that occupied my already crowded prayer time. Was a vibrant spiritual life even possible without Mary?
It would take more than a decade to admire Mary’s pivotal role in my faith journey and her presence, God-ordained and necessary. But I must admit that in all those years wandering as Mary’s ‘prodigal’, I couldn’t deny the witness of saints and their powerful miracles attributed to Mary’s devotion. How could men and women, par excellent in their holiness have such deep undeniable attachment to her? What was I missing?
I wish I could say that it happened all at once in some miraculous epiphany. But it didn’t. My journey with Mary has been gradual and my conversion to Catholicism continues to this day. As I study sacred scripture, the writings of the Saints and early Church Fathers, Mary’s vital role as the Mother of Christ, the Mother of His Church and the Mother of all humanity continues to unfold, it continue to leave me with awe and appreciation.
There is something about Mary!
If you’re in a similar journey, I encourage you to join me as I share pieces of my heart and things I’ve learned over the years, to arrive at what St. Louis de Montfort proudly declared – Mary, the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus.
1. Grace and Greatness
If you’ve been a woman in ministry, you know all about the pursuit of greatness. But so often, we confuse greatness with perfectionism, and so miss the essence of what it means to be truly great in God’s sight. Mary shows us greatness but through the lens of poverty, meekness and humility. Such paradoxical disposition is not a matter of downcast weakness, but of strong determination, trust and surrender. Mary was humble because she knew God had great plans for her. Mary knew God would do “great things” through her (Luke 1:49).
Mary’s life taught me a kind of greatness that blooms only when I allow the Lord to strip away any sense of my self-determination and self preservation.
Her self-emptied love inspired me to empty myself of my ‘great plans’ to pave way for ‘greater things’. The more I pursed my call to greatness with Mary, the more I was freed within, to experience the new life that bursts forth when all is abandoned to God’s will.
2. Word and Worship
I encountered Jesus in a Catholic private prayer cell that operated outside the Church. As radical as they were, theirs was the only spirituality I knew. Their prayer components, though comprising of Word and Worship were devoid of sacred tradition, sacramental life and were heavily influenced by protestant spirituality. As I matured in my walk, I longed for more. Though God’s Word and Worship were an integral part of this prayer group, I only grew to greater depths after I studied Mary’s insatiable thirst and pursuit for the Word of God.
No one knew God’s Word like Mary, both intellectually and prophetically. At a time when Mary lived, she was probably illiterate but the virgin from Galilee was familiar with God’s promises and pondered them in her heart. Pope Benedict XVI explains the word ‘pondered’ in Hebrew as being the same word ‘dialogue’. Mary engaged in daily interior dialogue with the Word of God.
To Mary, the Word of God was a Person who loved her, with whom she had an intimate relationship.
From this intimacy, burst forth her magnificat. From this intimacy, Mary offered her perpetual ‘fiat’.
In a world drowned out by noise and conflicting ideologies on truth, to live in the discernment of God is to live like Mary, devoted to the scriptures, pondering with dialogue, resting in communion. Mary may not have known the whole picture of the Cross and God’s plan for her suffering when she said ‘yes’, but she knew His tender Voice calling her by name and that was enough.
3. Fiat and Friendship
I’ve had my share of heartbreaks in friendships, even more in ministry. For a long time, the lens through which I saw ‘friendship’ was tainted with painful human experiences. Trust was severed and communal joy seemed unachievable. Through Mary, I discovered ‘friendship’ resting on the foundation of truth and love. I saw gaps in my own relationships and I found it paramount to pause, reconsider and redefine virtuous friendships in our modern world.
In Luke 1:39-45, we read how a pregnant Mary, forgetting about self and thinking about Elizabeth took on a 100 mile journey to Ain-Karim. There is ecstatic joy as the two women met, because Mary carried in her womb, Jesus, the source of their joy. How contrasting this is to our individualistic world so focused on competition, comparison and celebration of self-accomplishments? Mary shows us how to celebrate “our thunder” with our sisters. Mary received the greatest honor in salvation history, but desired to celebrate Elizabeth’s miracle. Elizabeth bypassed the joy of her own miraculous pregnancy to honor Mary’s good news. This shared joy allowed both women to be edified, supported, and celebrated.
Mary and Elizabeth’s soul-bearing friendship taught me intentional discipleship. I learnt how true friendships are less about what we gain than they are about witnessing.
Mary taught me to look inward, to see ways I had selfishly edified myself more than others. She taught me to love Jesus by loving those who cannot repay me back. She taught me to recognize vocation and gifts in others as far more important than mine and she taught me that I didn’t need a reason to bring joy to another’s life.
4. Service and Suffering
When I watched Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, I realized how the image of Mary as one of a beautiful, young virgin, with a warm smile, and without sin was ingrained in my mind for so many years. But at the Cross, Mary is no longer the teenager who carried the Son of Man in her womb. She is an aging mother, whose face unveils worry lines of suffering. Her robe is dusty and stained with blood and her heart is pierced with a sword (Luke 2:35).
It is no secret that suffering is an inevitable part of our Christian life but without a biblical worldview of suffering, we could end up suffering in vain conceit and hopelessness. We could become wearied with daily struggles and calamities. We could become self-centered when we are bitter, exhausted, drained, and running on empty. It is in such times, that Mary’s heart is open for us. She understands suffering in ways we never can.
Just as Christ gave the last drop of His blood, Mary completely gives of her heart, broken in love.
Mary’s fiat, marriage, motherhood and vocation are extinguished in the fiery flames of Christ’s love. Such love is life changing. It is freeing, it is renewing.
Today, as I face this season’s trials and tears, Mary comes to me. She comforts me in ways only a heavenly mother can. She shows me how suffering and service are entwined, infused in love, and united at the Cross. She shows us how to be charitable without escaping the Cross. Such service, woven in suffering is a “revolution”, Pope Francis says, capable of changing the world, because it overthrows the world’s idea of vanity and self seeking pursuits of power.
Sister, I don’t know if you are struggling in your relationship with Mary and are afraid to consider what might happen if you came to her. Sometimes the best thing to do when we are afraid is to just do it. May I encourage you to a few things that have helped me in my journey,
- Recite one Hail Mary intentionally. Just one. Mary hears. It’s all about the heart. Over time, you can gradually increase it to a decade, reflecting on the mystery through scripture.
- Journal your thoughts about Mary, even if they are conflicting. The Holy Spirit loves Mary and desires to bridge the chasm in your heart.
- Include Marian themes in your spiritual reading. Read a variety of authors.
- Read up Pope’s homilies, stories, miraculous testimonies by saints including historical events like the apparitions.
No one has a ‘monopoly’ on Mary. We all have our own path to follow. Give yourself the space, time and lament finding yours. Relationships take time after all. Ask Mary to reveal herself as mother – ‘your mother’. Ask for her holy intercession and then simply…love her. There is no loss in love, only fruit.
Among other beautiful things, be assured that Mary will lead you to this fruit – the fruit of her womb and the source of your joy: the Lord Jesus Christ.