We can always ask Mary to offer us her motherly assistance in any area, but if we want her to truly be our Alma Mater we must let her teach us. She can help us learn to do as she did: to discern the will of God and then to have the courage to humbly act upon it. We can reflect upon what we see of her in Scripture and therefore imitate her in pondering things in our heart as she did. Another effective way to do this is to pray the Rosary in which we meditate upon the mysteries found in those gospel passages which reveal her role and relationship to the mission of Jesus. We can learn from Mary how to point others to Jesus through acts of humble service and prayer. And she will also be present when we come to realize that something is too far beyond our ability, thus we learn humility when we ask for her intercession. To learn from our Alma Mater ultimately means letting ourselves become hidden ones, sitting at her feet as we ask her assistance, trusting in her love for us and in her relationship with Jesus.
©Michele L. Catanese
*St. Joseph Shadow of the Father by Fr. Andre Doze, page 4
**Preface to True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort, translated by Fr. Frederick Faber
Note: Happy New Year to All! Next post will be on January 15.
1. This icon is called The Holy Family for the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It is one of my favorite Holy Family icons and it depicts much of what I was trying to express in this entry: Joseph is looking away, as if to be in touch with instructions for how to proceed. He is also hiding and protecting Mary and Jesus, as seen in his cloak held around them. Mary has her eyes totally on Jesus while trusting Joseph to keep them safe. Jesus has His hand on her cloak, but He is playfully squirming in her arms, just as any small child would do. You can find this icon for purchase in one of many formats (or simply to get a better look) at Fr. Bill's website: http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/the-holy-family-for-the-holy-family-hospital-of-bethlehem-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
2. This is one of my photos, taken in the Badlands of South Dakota. I chose this sunset because the sun is low in the sky, about to become hidden. The sun is still there at night, of course, but it is hidden from our sight, symbolic of the hiddenness of Joseph and Mary.
3. I took this photo in the St. Joseph Church in Nazareth, Israel. This church is not far from the Church of the Annunciation; in fact, they are right next door to one another. This icon was on one of the walls and it caught my attention. I love the way Joseph holds the scrolls of the Scriptures and Jesus, one in each arm. He has the Word and the Word in his safe keeping.
4. This icon is called Mother of God Waiting in Adoration by Fr. William Hart McNichols. In this work, Mary is seen in a posture of prayer and great humility. She is pondering everything in her heart and she is learning from the Word within her. (She is pregnant in this icon.) She is totally dispossessing herself to God: "I am the Handmaiden of the Lord!"
You can find this at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/mother-of-god-waiting-in-adoration-248-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
5. I have chosen another of the exquisite icons written by Fr. William Hart McNichols. This is my favorite icon, Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations: I chose it since we celebrate the Solemnity of the Mary the Mother of God on January 1. She is the Mother of All Nations. You can read more about the apparition and subsequent devotion of Mary under this title at http://www.de-vrouwe.info/en. You can find Fr. Bill's unique and beautiful icon at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/mary-most-holy-mother-of-all-nations-080-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
6. This photo is also one of mine, taken in Estes Park, Colorado, (in Rocky Mountain National Park.) It was a scene of peace and serenity and so I chose to use it here because I hope to convey the peace and the prayerfulness that comes with reflection. Perhaps we can find a place in our own town or city, and especially a place within our own heart, to sit with Mary and let her be our Alma Mater, leading us always to her Son, so that we might respond with love, mercy, and compassion toward those in most need, as well as to our own loved ones.
7. This final image is a painting called The Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds by Bernardino Luini, (1480). I chose it because I like the more youthful Joseph, seen on the far right, as well as for the posture of rapt attention of each figure, focused on Jesus. The anawim are gathered, the poor shepherds and the lowly parents, in adoration of Jesus. (Note the foreshadowing of the Cross in the beams behind them, though this should not take away from the joy of the moment. It is a reminder that this Child has a mission which has only just begun.) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bernardino_Luini_-_Nativity_and_Annunciation_to_the_Shepherds_-_WGA13754.jpg