Standing in line for confession recently, waiting to pour out to Christ all my mothering failures, I wondered for the hundredth time how the Blessed Mother did it. How did she raise a toddler without sinning? The constant demands of my children on my time, love, energies, and patience often wears me to the breaking point. How did Mary avoid dissolving into selfishness?
The cynical part of me points out that having a sinless child certainly helped, but that’s not really the secret. I know Mary was preserved from original sin, but she also had free will to say “yes” to God . So how did Mary remain calm, collected, obedient, loving, and humble? I want so badly her serene composure, her constant mercy, her unfailing trust, and her love perfected by grace. I have begged her intercession often as a I find myself failing again and again.
As I went into the confessional, I asked her to pray that I would make a good confession; truly sorry and resolved to do better. After some good advice from my priest, surely inspired by Our Lady of Good Counsel, I finally realized something critical about Our Lady, something I need to emulate: Our Lady never gave in to fear, and thus, never gave in to anger.
There was much for Mary to fear: judgment for her pregnancy, rejection by the man she loved, a life different than the one she had planned, and the eventual sacrifice of what she loved most, her Son. In the Annunciation text Scripture tells us Mary was troubled at first, uncertain what Gabriel could mean. I’m certain that Satan whispered these fears in her ear, desperate to stop God’s chosen mother from accepting her vocation. Yet she chose to listened instead to the voice of the angel, the voice that said, “Do not fear.”
When presented with both a great honor and a terrifyingly great task, Mary was able to accept both with humbleness and trust. Mary knew, without a doubt, her place in the universe, “the handmaiden of the Lord.” If her Lord required her to do something unprecedented in the history of world, carrying and raising His only Son, so be it. Who was she to second-guess the designs of the Almighty One? She was ready to do as He wished, because she had already placed her life in His Hands.
Mary knew and trusted the one perfect love — that of God for His Beloved — and that love cast out all her fears. When she accepted God’s will for her , with all its troubles and responsibilities and heartaches, it was because she truly believed in God’s love and providence. Her fiat was the seal on her heart that thrust out all her possible doubts. Mary opened herself up to the “great things” God was going to do in her, and closed the door on the fears of all that it would require of her.
As Mary gave birth in a stable, surrounded not by friends and family, but by strangers and animals, she held on to that love. When it was prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart, she treasured that trust. When she raised the miracle that was entrusted to her, she remained worthy of her vocation by accepting it daily. As she sent her Son into a world that would reject Him and watched him sacrifice Himself, she joined the Father in offering up her best gift out of love for sinners. The strength of Mary’s fiat held even through the death of her Son, and she was rewarded with the witness of His Resurrection and her place at His Side in Heaven: all love’s promises come true.
I am not like Mary. I have not yet mastered the complete surrender of myself to Providence. I still struggle with fully trusting in my God, even though I know He orchestrates all things for my good. I find myself too often a slave to anxiety, the ship of my soul tossed in the winds of fear. How often I hold back from the peace that is offered to those, like Mary, who give their ego away. My will is weak, my trust is feeble, and my selfishness and fears so strong.
But that’s why Christ has given us His Mother, not just as an example, but also as a constant companion, intercessor, and help. Mary’s will, now and forever, is to carry us to her Son, if only we will commit ourselves to her motherly arms.
“Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence I fly unto thee, Oh Virgin of Virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. Oh Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.”