Have you ever experienced being labeled or defined by someone on the basis of just one event in your life? Some athletes have spent their lives living with the image of one spectacular/disastrous moment. There are some people for whom you have done so much but all they remember is the one thing you didn’t do.
I wonder if Mary the Mother of God might relate to such experiences. No doubt being chosen to be the mother of Jesus is truly an unparalleled privilege. But I also hear Jesus giving us a context for viewing his mother… and also his brothers and sisters. “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Forgotten truths about Mary
Yes, she was the mother of Jesus but as mother she accepted an enormous responsibility of nurturing, safeguarding, and guiding Jesus as he grew in wisdom, age, and grace. She lived out the will of the Father not just in that one marvelous moment of the Annunciation but over a lifetime which culminated in a painful and ignominious death of her son. She no doubted modeled faith in Jesus as his followers gathered in despair and confusion. “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus.
Contemporary studies of Mary are rediscovering Mary’s lifetime model of discipleship.
Mary is a model of the Church as the people of God who are called to be Christ-bearers in the world. Each baptized Christian is chosen and called by God to be like Mary – a disciple, a Christ-bearer!
Discipleship places Mary firmly in the midst of the Church, the community of disciples. She is no longer seen in isolation from us, exalted far above the heavens. She models for us what it means to struggle to live the Gospel and ensure that it is preached throughout the world. Mary, the disciple and apostle, is truly our model, showing us what we are called to be.
Mary’s love and challenges for youth
As we think of the feasts of St. Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal perhaps we need to recover another forgotten truth about Mary, the Mother of Jesus… her relationship with young people.
Think of how often she has chosen to appear to young people at Fatima, Lourdes, Medjugorje, to mention only the most known in the western world.
Many among us think of the apparition of Mary entrusting to the young novice Catherine the mission to have a medal struck. But there was a second message!
“The Blessed Virgin wishes to give you a mission… You will be the founder and director of a Confraternity of Children of Mary.”
In effect, she was calling attention to youth as both needing to be evangelized… and a force themselves for evangelization… and she was entrusting this mission to the young Catherine.
This part of Catherine’s mission flourished in the beginning. Then it faded. Now in the last several decades, Vincentian Marian Youth is a movement flourishing once again. Worldwide membership in the Vincentian Marian youth groups has grown to 80,000. These groups exist in more than 50 countries.
This part of the message is extremely relevant today and therefore should not be secret. Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis emphasize young people so often, both in word and in action. The young are the future of the church. The future of the church lies in their hands.
Learning from Mary
- How often do I look to Mary as model for my discipleship?
- When do I challenge and enable youth in ministry?