All praise and glory are Yours, almighty Father:
You have given us Your Son Jesus to save us from sin.
We praise You for choosing Mary to be His Mother, for teaching her to believe Your message, for helping her accept Your holy will.
Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit to be like Mary:
To ponder Your word in our hearts,
To obey Your will, To love Your Son, To sing Your praises every day.
Father, we praise You through Jesus Christ, Your Son in the love of Your Spirit, for ever and ever.
When Robert asked me to do a talk on Mary, two songs came immediately to mind: I kept them in the back of my mind while I looked at the Catechism and other sources to prepare the talk- but the two songs stayed with me, coming to the front of my mind and on to my lips at different times. I wondered why but I continued reading and preparing the paper….
The first source I went to was the Catechism. For me the Catechism is something that at first glance is kind of cut and dry but when I read and really take in what is there I discover so much more.
And the catechism tells us:
To be sure, there are as many paths
of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in
all and with all. It is in the communion
of the Holy Spirit that Christian prayer is prayer in the Church.
We are reminded that in prayer we are united to the Son, which then unites us in the Church with the Mother of Jesus. Mary, with her consent in faith, extended her motherhood to the brothers and sisters of her Son. Jesus… is the way of our prayer; Mary, his mother and ours, is wholly transparent to him: she “shows the way” and is herself “the Sign” of the way. Think of that- wholly transparent, nothing gets in the way of our seeing or knowing Jesus because He shines forth.
Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ. The two parts of this prayer give us two pictures of Mary,: the first “magnifies” the Lord for the great things he did for his lowly servant and through her for all human beings,
the second entrusts the pleas, petitions and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows us and our needs.
This twofold prayer to Mary has found a special and beautiful expression in the Ave Maria. The catechism breaks down the prayer to give us a deeper understanding of the words and I’ve added some thoughts and questions for personal reflection.
Hail Mary: the greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this prayer. It is God himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets Mary. In our praying of the Hail Mary we dare to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult in the joy he finds in her.
Can we be counted among His lowly humble servants - exulting in joy no matter our circumstances?
Full of grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phases of the angel’s greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who is the source of all grace Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.
How do we or can we also give ourselves over to the One who dwells within us, and how do we give “the One” to the world?
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. After the angel’s greeting, we make Elizabeth’s greeting our own. Mary is “blessed among women” because she believed in the fulfillment of the Lord’s word. Mary, because of her faith became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God’s own blessing, Jesus, the “fruit of thy womb.”
What are the fruits of our actions? How well do we nourish His life within us? Are we tending our field as it were?
Holy Mary, Mother of God: With Elizabeth, we marvel, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God - together with her: “Thy will be done.”
For me, and maybe for some of you, this is a difficult one- abandoning myself to the will of God. What will happen, the what ifs start to push in and take control.
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the “Mother of Mercy,” We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further to surrender “the hour of our death” wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing, to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.
The Catechism continues telling us that Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er.) And when we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sent his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.
After reading the catechism I turned to another source. There are videos on Ascension Press done by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. I don’t know if any of you have ever watched them. These are mainly younger Friars and they have a wonderfully natural way of talking to each other and about many things.
If you Google Ascension Press and Brother Pius, it will get you there.
One video is “Praying the Hail Mary well”
Brother Pius speaks of the twofold structure of the Hail Mary, and how it is based in scripture. He talks about his 2 year old niece who asks him to tell her a story, then sits in front of him, takes his hand and stares up at him. He likened it to praying the Hail Mary and sitting and being attentive to Mary. Praying as if you were sitting at the feet of Mary; spending time in her presence. Being attentive and regarding the one with whom we are speaking. This can help us focus in on a particular part of a mystery or scripture (point of mediation) and make it part of the prayer. i.e. ‘and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus’ – and I might pray- hidden in your womb for 9 months. Or pray for us sinners now- because I need peace to deal with a difficult situation. This way of praying can deepen our experience of the Hail Mary.
Brother Pius expresses it as being sort of like sitting at the feet of Mary and hearing her tell the story of her son’s life.
When referring to the rosary, he says there’s no reason to be suspicious of the repetition of the prayers, because it creates space for contemplation, time to center ourselves and focus. It is also similar to how the psalms have been prayed for thousands of year, since they were, and are, prayed over and over as well.
Brother Pius reminds us that he doesn’t think our mothers ever tire of us telling them we love them. This prayer is a beautiful way to say I love you to our Mother Mary.
In another video, Father Mark-Mary and Brother Malachy talk about the importance of Mary.
Brother Malarchy started with saying that he didn’t always have a devotion to Mary. Then he realized that every time he read about a saint, someone who inspired him- he found this woman in their life. He took note of how devotion to the Blessed Mother is such a common trend among the holiest people who have lived. And he realized that if he wanted to pattern his life after these people, he needed and eventually wanted to have Mary in his life in the same way.
Mary as a spiritual mother provides what is needed to fill that place in our heart for a mother. A place of refuge, strength and encouragement. Who protects us on our journey, to which Fr. Mark-Mary responded “A spiritual Momma bear! And you don’t mess with a Momma bear or any Momma protecting her children. Mary is a Mom who wants nothing but the best for her children, and Jesus is the best.
Fr. Mark-Mary spoke about a prayer he has taken as his own, a favorite prayer of Saint Mother Teresa, especially in time of trouble:
“Mary, be a mother to me now.”
So…back to the two songs. I was reviewing the two videos from Ascension I spoke about as I was working on the talk and wondering if the songs really fit in when I saw another video, this one by Father Mike Schmitz called The Virgin Mary’s Struggles”. For me it brought things together….
In the video Father Mike speaks about people possibly being upset because Mary was born without sin- how could she possibly know, or understand what we go through. She’s perfect, never had to worry and we have to muddle through life while she didn’t. What we need to remember, Fr. Mike said, is that God called her to a particular role in a single act of grace – a unique situation - and remember too that we are all given what we need to accomplish that to which we are called.
Father Mike continues- If you’ve ever strived to follow God, to do the right thing, you know how lonely that can be. Mary wasn’t perfect, even though she was without sin, but whenever it came to the choice of whether to compromise or not compromise regarding sin – to fight for good, she never compromised. If you’ve ever refused to compromised, you know how that feels. Still, even though we might know how it feels, Father Mike believes that no one has ever walked a lonelier road than Mary. Walking through this broken world, she never compromised. She didn’t present herself as holier than others, even though she was. As lonely as she was, it was the struggle to resist given in and compromising that made her just as powerful- maybe more so. She, and Jesus, even though she was born without sin and He is God and man, both know how hard it is to fight against sin. People might be tempted to think that neither one of them don’t know how hard it is. But if you give in to sin, if you compromise over and over- you don’t, you can’t know how hard it is.
As C.S. Lewis said “only the person who stands against the wind knows how strong it is.”
If you find yourself lonely- you have a friend in Mary
If you find yourself alone, the one in the group who will not compromise- you have a friend in Mary
If you find yourself being excluded or isolated –for just trying to choose Jesus- you have a friend in Mary
If you feel exhausted with the fight, thinking about giving up - you have a friend, a model, a Mom in Mary.
And what does she do, she always brings us to Jesus. She doesn’t point to herself and say look at how I did it, she says – come with me, I know what this is about, I know what you’ve been through - come with me….to HIM. Because He’s the Son- As Fr. Mike says… He’s not just the SON but the SUN, Mary is a moon, everything good in her is a reflection of Jesus. Both Mary and Jesus know what it is like to be lonely and rejected.
So, we’ve got some friends!!! And that’s pretty good company.
NOW Do you think you know what songs came to mind for me???
Well one is - Mary, Did You Know?
The beautiful song that combines the loving actions of a mother with the reality of the actions of Jesus.
Did she know? How did she feel when she realized or saw what He was doing?
Was the mother in her not just proud of Him but afraid for Him, wanting to do whatever she could to keep Him safe- knowing that she had to let Him complete His mission. How difficult to watch those events unfold but trusting, always trusting in the will of God as she had from the beginning.
The other is the Amy Grant song- Breath of Heaven
Mary waits and wonders if she has to go through this alone, frightened and wondering what she has done. And then the line that always strikes a chord in me:
Do you wonder as you watch my face; If a wiser one should have had my place
had that thought with each weekend I’ve served on team and each role in
Cursillo I’ve held, sometimes more than others.
But then I try to remember to pray the next line of the song:
But I offer all I am; For the mercy of your plan
So the songs were a reminder to me of all Mary is, all we revere, respect, admire, believe, love about her. The way we hold her in high regard, see her as our Mother, as the Mother of Jesus, as pure and holy…all that is as it should be.
However if sometimes this possibly makes it difficult to connect with or relate to her, recall her as a person, a mother, someone who had pain and struggles like us but someone of faith, trusting in the will of God who will take us to herself and lead us to Him.
Mary is complete - born without sin but not without all the emotions and parts of life we all know and experience. She is always ready to hear us, hold us and guide us.
I’ll leave you with this short reflection from Loyola’s 3 minute retreat:
The scripture verse this particular day was:
Luke 1:38 - Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
It seems like all the angel needed was Mary’s answer. “Then the angel departed from her.” The angel’s mission was complete, and Mary’s had just begun. She couldn’t have known all that being the Mother of God would entail. But she did know that God had chosen her and, through faith, she knew that would be enough. She would have what she needed at each step of the way. Through faith, we have that same assurance. We may have questions or want more information or doubt whether we have what it takes to do what God asks, but we can always be assured that God will provide for us wonderfully well.
So, remember….you’ve got some friends!!! And they are really good company.