What is Mary's relationship to Catholics living today?

Before the Second Vatican Council, Catholics kept Mary on a pedestal, emphasizing her privileged uniqueness. We were so busy craning our necks to look up to her that we missed out on her presence at our side. But the Fathers of Vatican II offered new advice. Paraphrasing Lumen Gentium, they said: "Look again. Mary is a human being who, like us, needed to be redeemed by her Son. She is a model who goes before us, guiding our pilgrimage of faith. She assures us that we too are capable of fidelity to God's call."

We know from Mary's experience as well as our own that hope does not immunize us against doubt, suffering or spiritual setbacks. Her humanity left her vulnerable to misunderstanding Jesus' mission, enduring the stress of his conflicts with religious authorities, bearing the devastation of his humiliating death. Can any parent who has witnessed his or her child's violent death doubt that the green shoots of hope in Mary's heart were trampled and nearly extinguished at Calvary? Yet she endured. And when the early Church gathered to pray for the Spirit's coming, she poured out that same heart in confident expectation.

If we see ourselves as God's works of art ("I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;/Wonderful are your works"-Ps 139:14), we will honor Mary as God's masterwork. We will treasure the mystery by which she is "potentially every woman, every man." We will emulate her interiority, her prayerfulness, her trust, her hope. For she is an accessible model for all ages.

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