I have a memory from my childhood in which something upsetting took place on a particular day, and as a result I felt the need for my mother to console me. Though I do not remember why, my mother was not available and perhaps was away from the house at that moment. What I do remember, however, is that in the midst of my distress an image (a holy card, probably) of the Blessed Virgin Mary at my bedside caught my attention and somehow all at once she seemed present to me. I vividly remember being greatly comforted, no longer feeling like I was alone. Her presence was gentle and it seemed as if she had always been there. I especially needed something gentle, and like any truly loving mother, she knew when and how to console me. That the experience seemed normal at the time is not really surprising since children possess a capacity for openness that sometimes is lost as they grow older. However, what stands out the most in this experience is that Mary seemed to have ‘come to me’ before I even asked. The result of this experience is that from a young age I learned to turn to Mary often and to understand that she is consistently with us far more than we may realize. That is, while we can (and should) turn to her for any reason, she also comes to us, just as she went to Elizabeth in love and service responding to a need she saw. And with Elizabeth, in wonder and gratitude we can say: “How does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)
There are three aspects of Mary’s motherhood that I would like to point out. First, Jesus shared her with us, that is, He entrusted us to her for a reason. It was not only because He knew we would need her motherly care and powerful intercession, but He also wanted us to have a relationship with the person who meant most to Him during His life and on into eternity. This aspect is worthy of much meditation: Jesus wanted to share Mary with us so that she would love us as she loves Him. Second, Mary’s motherhood shared with us also reveals a great deal about her continuing role which began with her “yes” to God at the Annunciation. That “yes” was an assent to everything that was to come for all time, a willing obedience that led to her being crowned Queen of Heaven after her death.* Third, it tells of her great humility. Consider this: Mary accepted the crown as Queen of Heaven in just the same way as she accepted the role of Mother of God, repeating her great ‘Fiat’, that is, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) The humility of the first yes led to her acceptance of the great honor of Queenship because it is what her Lord wanted. Thus, we should also consider that Mary accepted Queenship just as any one of us should accept a grace/gift from God: with humility and gratitude. Remember, it is not a matter of our worthiness, but a matter of God’s love and graciousness. To accept is to do His will!
Mary is powerful in Heaven as an intercessor, having the unique role of being closer to Jesus than any other created being, and (as stated above) she is also intensely interested in all her children. Throughout the years Mary has elected to give warnings or to ask prayer in concern for humanity in a public way, as it were, in what are now considered major apparitions such as the one at Lourdes. More regularly, she comes to each of us when we invoke her intercession for our own concerns or when we simply are in need of our Blessed Mother. While most likely we will not see her visibly as did Saints like Juan Diego or Bernadette Soubirous, she is no less present when we call upon her. And truly I believe that whenever we say her name, Mary, or address her by one of her titles we are consoling her sorrowful heart because we are being attentive to her concerns for the world, helping her to bear the burden in some small way. In fact, I believe that when we say her name in prayer, Mary smiles. Saying her name reverently is our gift of love to her, but in doing so we are also inviting her to do that which she most loves: taking care of the children entrusted to her by Jesus.
It would be good to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary as we pray that beautiful prayer, imagining each scene as if we were there. Perhaps we can also read and reflect upon the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, and Presentation of Jesus (Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-40) or any other gospel passage in which Mary appears.** Another suggestion is to do some study by choosing one of the apparitions of Mary to learn more about the particular events and her messages to the people. But no matter what we choose, let us always remember to call upon Mary not only during our need, but also to thank her for being such an attentive, humble mother. Indeed, how blessed are we that the mother of our Lord, the Queen of Heaven, should come to us!
May we give thanks to Jesus for sharing His mother Mary with us as our mother, too! May we turn to Mary for her intercession whenever we need her help! May we become more aware and more attentive to Mary’s presence in the ordinary moments of our lives! And may we let Mary show us the way to her Son, which is the role she savors the most! Let us meet in the hearts of Mary and Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
*Mary's ‘yes’ has such theological depth that I cannot go into all of the ramifications of it in this entry. Although sanctity was already present in that she was conceived immaculately, (that is, there is nothing but grace within her), she was but a young woman, probably 13 years of age, and therefore she could not have fully understood all that such an assent would entail, especially that it meant a role for her eternally. Therefore, it is a testament to her trust in God and her profound humility which enabled her to say, “Be it done to me according to Your word.” She did not know of the great suffering to come, nor that one day she would be crowned as Queen of Heaven. All she knew was that she loved God with all of her heart and soul, and that everything He asked of her she would do willingly.
** You can find references to Mary in all four gospels, of course, though the best is Luke who is said to have interviewed her and who therefore wrote more about her than any other gospel writer. He also included her in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. See Luke 1&2, and also Acts 1:13-14 which implies Mary was present for all the important events in the early church, including Pentecost. There is no doubt that Luke was conveying her importance to the Church from its very beginning. John also wrote some important passages that reveal much about Mary, especially the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12) and Mary at the foot of the cross, (John 19:25-30).
1. My photo, New Mexico. I chose this because it seems to me the terrain may have entailed something like this when Mary went to Elizabeth in the hill country.
2. Icon, Mother of God Asking for Humility, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/mother-of-god-asking-for-humility-143-william-hart-mcnichols.html
3. My photo taken at the shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Michigan. This is the site of the only approved apparition of Mary that took place in the United States.
4. Fresco painting, inset of The Visitation, by Blessed Fra Angelico.
5.My photo, Lake Michigan.
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Heart Speaks to Heart