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Seven Things I Learned From Mary
By: Chris Padgett
I have long reflected on my devotion to the Blessed Mother. Especially during the past year, I’ve reflected upon some of the highs and lows of my own devotion. Here are seven things I learned from Mary, our Blessed Mother.
1. A Rich Wellspring
You can never exhaust the fullness of what God has done in, to and through Mary. The more we learn about who she is, about what her “yes” means throughout history, the more we should be able to reflect a deep devotion. Mary applies to us today in what it means to be a spiritual person. She is present today, waiting for us to go deeper with her son.
The more we study and reflect on Mary, the more we understand that she is teaching us how to love Jesus.
2. A Faithful Friend
When it comes to actually living the faith, the things I know to be true seem to slip through my fingers. I am a man in desperate need of Christ’s redemption.
With my tendency to struggle, it is easy to despair, but I find peace knowing that Mary has been with me as a faithful friend. It would be easy to imagine her ready to give up on me. Flawed, broken, weak and struggling, I don’t have much to offer her son. She continues to stand with me, guiding my heart, loving me despite my inadequacies. She is a committed friend who cares.
3. A Loving Wife
I’ve been married for over 20 years. I’ve also taught courses on Christian marriage in the past; therefore I appreciate the beauty of the Holy Family. For me, realizing that Mary’s love for Joseph was so complete — even before the Christ child came in her life — has been a wellspring in my spiritual development.
The love of Mary and Joseph was real. The love that they had is so true that they physically had God’s presence in the Incarnation. As I continue to look at Mary as a loving wife, I am also finding how powerful and important Joseph is, both to Mary and to Jesus. I am learning how to let Christ be more present in my family by looking at Mary as a wife and mother.
4. Our Top Model
Mary loved God more than anything. Often we tend to see Mary as so holy and unique that we are unable to model her witness in our own lives. But it is her closeness with God that makes her model so valuable and imitable — both to men and women. Mary’s life is a model of spiritual authenticity and holiness.
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Despite our own behaviors, our actions should have a Marian quality about them as our love for God deepens.
5. Adoring Mother
I want to look upon Jesus in the Eucharist as Mary looked upon the infant in her arms. I want to speak to him with love and soak up his every word. I can do this best at Mass, of course, and in moments of quiet adoration. Jesus, in the Blessed Sacrament, is waiting for me to come and listen, to come and see, to come and worship. Will I be like the Wise Men who traveled from afar to gaze upon Jesus? Or will I be selfish like the innkeeper who chose not to give what he had?
Too often in my life I am like that innkeeper. Mary found a way to adore Jesus regardless of circumstance. She adored the child in her womb, while neighbors likely made snide remarks or questioned her purity. Her whole life was finding a way to make more space in her life for Jesus. I want to adore Christ increasingly this year. I know Mary is teaching me how!
6. Deeper Discipline and Discipleship
We don’t achieve a spiritual plateau this side of eternity. There is always more of Christ to learn from and follow. We must all find ways to go deeper in our walk with God. The key for me is this: Spiritual discipline without discipleship is pointless. We must remember that Christ calls us and is teaching us. We follow Jesus because we know he wants to be with us. Mary knows this, too. We are being called and filled with grace to say yes to the Lord.
7. To Be or Not to Be?
This has been a source of rich meditation for me. The point is both simple and profoundly complex: We must simply be. We spend much of our time trying to position ourselves into a place where we think God can love us. The truth is God loves us regardless. We are loved even when we fail. Knowing that we are loved, we are free to live a life that isn’t chained by fear. God already loves us. Mary understood this from the start. Even as a young, poor and easily overlooked woman, Mary said a daring “Yes!”
Thanks be to God.
Imprimatur: Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 1/17/2012
Chris Padgett is a speaker, musician and college professor. He and his wife, Linda, are the parents of nine children. They live in Steubenville, Ohio. For more on Chris, go to: chris-padgett.com.
By: Frank Frost
One way to think about the ideal of motherhood is to consider it in contrast to the tattered reality of the less-than-ideal mother. From this viewpoint, the mothers featured in 1983’s Terms of Endearment provide plenty of material for reflection.
■ In what ways do you relate to Mary?
How have Mary’s struggles mirrored your own?
Recall a difficult time in your life. How did Mary help you through it?
From the first scene of this Oscar-winning film we realize Aurora (Shirley MacLaine) is not the perfect mother. Despite admonitions from her husband offscreen, she hovers over her sleeping daughter’s crib, fearing crib death, and is only satisfied when she wakes up the child and can hear her crying. But the baby’s crying doesn’t bother her at all. Thus starts a lifetime of disconnect between Aurora and her daughter, Emma (Debra Winger).
The story follows both of them in a long-term love-hate relationship. The affluent, overprotective and controlling Aurora inadvertently drives the grown-up Emma into a marriage with a free-spirited academic, Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), who can provide only modest income to support three children.
Although Emma seems to be the antithesis of her mother, she nevertheless stays in phone contact with her when she moves away. And her mother becomes a lifeline when her marriage runs into trouble. As it turns out, Emma is not the perfect mother and wife, either, having an affair to offer payback to her philandering husband. The sweep of the story traces the transformation of both women. While they do not become perfect mothers, they do embrace their limitations and find a richer understanding of their maternal responsibilities and acceptance of each other. In the final scene, we see Aurora embracing her granddaughter as she had scarcely embraced Emma.
Next time you watch Terms of Endearment, ASK YOURSELF:
By: Christopher Heffron
The Virgin Mary is many things to many people: mother, protector, confidant, Disney Princess?
■ What characteristics of Aurora make her less than an ideal mom?
How does Emma, as a mother, both succeed and fail?
What qualities help them redeem their relationship and transcend their limitations?
How can I accept my limitations and strive to be a loving parent?
As a child, Ginny Moyer, author of Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God (St. Anthony Messenger Press), admired Mary much like millions of American girls today idolize Cinderella, Belle or Jasmine.
“Not to be glib about that, but she was so beautiful and perfect, and I wanted to be like her,” Ginny says. “My elementary school was staffed by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so they had a strong Marian devotion.”
In college, like so many young Catholics with their first taste of independence, Ginny fell away from the Church. Her views of Mary changed, too.
“I couldn’t really see her as anything other than some two-dimensional figure who was put up on a pedestal just so the rest of us women would feel bad about ourselves. During those years, she became a symbol of all that I wanted to get away from in Catholicism.”
In graduate school, however, Ginny reclaimed her faith. A love for Mary soon followed. Now that relationship is a huge part of her life and has helped her weather serious storms.
“My husband and I lost two pregnancies before our first son was born,” she says. “Both were devastating, and yet both drew me closer to Mary. And when I thought about her, I realized that she knew how it felt to lose a child — even worse, to lose him to torture and execution. She became one of the people who supported me in my grief.”
Ginny draws several parallels between Mary and moms, but says that all Catholics should see a kindred spirit in the Blessed Mother.
“She is relevant to everyone. We all have a unique calling in life. We want to find out what we have to offer the world and act on it even when that process leads us in directions we did not anticipate. That’s exactly what happened to Mary.”
Ginny also highlights one of the Virgin Mother’s most powerful attributes: to console. In this age of recession and unemployment, it’s become too easy to despair. Ginny says that Mary understands.
“It’s easy to forget this, but Mary lived in very difficult times. Her life was full of challenges that you don’t get to see when you look at those lovely serene statues. Mary really gets it. She gets our worry about the future, our uncertainty. I think this makes her a great person to turn to when things are tough and we don’t know what the next chapter of our lives is going to be.”
And for those who still have a difficult time relating to Mary, Ginny offers these words of advice: “Let her become real. Imagine her as a scared teenager who still finds the courage to say yes to God, as a woman who has to watch someone she loves suffer terribly. Let her speak to you. She will.”
For more information on Ginny Moyer, go to: randomactsofmomness.com.
By: Jeanne Hunt
Q. How do I respond to my friend, a non-Catholic, who still believes we worship Mary?
A. Catholics pray with Mary to Jesus. We invite Mary, the mother of Jesus, to be united with us in our deepest and most heartfelt needs as we bring them to her son. She acts as an intercessor for us. We ask Mary to be our spokesperson because of the very special bond Jesus has with his mother. Worshipping Mary is never a part of Catholic prayer to Mary. While we may thank her, ask for her help and even praise her for all she does for us, worship is meant only for the God she worships with us.
Q. Our daughter is 13. How can we as parents use Mary as a role model for her?
A. Telling our children Mary’s story from their earliest days into their adulthood is the first step. Begin with the mysteries of the rosary and describe what Mary may have been thinking and feeling as she gave her life to God. By age 13, your daughter is ready for the tough questions of faith. Ask her to put herself in the annunciation moment, the trip to visit Elizabeth, the birth far from home, the great escape to Egypt. Talk about how she would feel in those situations and the strength it took for Mary to act with grace. Finally, teach your daughter to pray to Mary when her life gets difficult. Let her know that, even when her earthly mother is gone, her heavenly mother will never leave her side.
Q. Mary was open to God’s challenges. How can our parish look to Mary as we face our own?
A. Create a column in the parish bulletin or website asking parishioners to share their personal experience of Mary. Let the witness of ordinary people make the connection between Mary’s life and our lives. Second, have an evening of prayer and discussion based on the scriptural moments of the joyful mysteries of the rosary. Read the story from Scripture and design one question per mystery that relates to the here and now. These five questions will make our Heavenly Mother’s story come alive as we see her courage in light of our everyday challenges.
By: Jeanne Hunt
Preparation: Ask the participants to bring one or more annual garden plants and a small garden trowel. Prepare the soil at an outdoor site for planting. If the parish has an outdoor shrine to Mary, this is the perfect spot.
Opening Hymn: “Gentle Mary”
Blessed Mother, we gather tonight to honor and remember you. We remember your courage and say thank you. We remember your selfless love and ask you to teach us to follow your example. We remember your purity and ask you to intercede for us as we seek to be pure of heart.
Scripture: Luke 1:46-55: The Magnificat
Choose one of the litanies found at campus.udayton.edu/mary/prayers/litpray02.html
Leader: Join with me as we honor Mary with this litany.
Recite the litany
Leader: Imagine that you are with the Blessed Mother right now. What would she want to say to you? Let us sit quietly for a moment and listen to her with our hearts.
After a short period of silence, invite everyone to process to an outdoor site where they will plant a Mary garden.
When the flowers are planted, conclude the prayer time with the Hail Mary.