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
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