I have been recently thrilled and excited and all sorts of joyful about the creation of Bright Maidens, where Julie, Elizabeth, and Trista have made it their goal to represent all that is legit, holy, and beautiful about being a young Catholic woman! They say: “We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!” Psh. Say no more. I feel like they’re sisters already!
It’s no secret that I love kids. I think they are hilarious, I think they are adorable, I think they are obvious signs of God’s simple and powerful love… and I can’t get enough of them! During the past 11 years of my life, I have been a nursery aide, church childcare volunteer, babysitter, nanny, camp counselor, and youth minister. I used to think it was just something I liked to do, but I’m starting to see it more as a calling every day. (Blessing!) Every time I’m taking care of kids, I am amazed to step into the perspective of a parent. I understand the Father’s love more clearly, and I understand mercy and compassion more readily. Most of all, I see the responsibility of motherhood (and parenthood in general) as such a beautiful and scary gift.
There’s a myriad of fun things to do with kids, but my favorite part is teaching. In youth ministry and substitute teaching, I’ve had those opportunities to share knowledge because it was clearly expected. But the best teaching moments are life moments: when you’re covered in dirt and grass, showing a three-year-old how to put his arms over his head so he can roll down a hill. Or when you’re in the middle of drawing with a five-year-old and she needs to know how to draw a letter so she can spell your name. It’s those little moments, when you’re chauffeuring someone around town and a quiet little voice asks you to clarify a very concerning question about something completely random. Or a heated skirmish that lets you explain a bigger concept on kid terms, like what’s “fair” and “unfair,” what it means to be patient, or how to share.
I learn, by being the teacher, what it means to be the student. I learn what it means to be a child — to need guidance, and to value the growth that comes from constantly trying to learn.
And, as a student and a child, I look to Our Mother.
[Jesus] did not will to come into the world at the age of a perfect man, independent of others, but like a poor and little babe, dependent on the cares and nourishment of this holy Mother. He found no more perfect means, no shorter way to [glorify God and save men], than to submit Himself in all things to the Blessed Virgin, not only during the first eight, ten, or fifteen years of His life, like other children, but for thirty years! (True Devotion, St. Louis de Montfort)
I often find myself meditating on what Mary’s life would have been like. I see the mundane and not-so-exciting pieces of my life and wonder how that really fits into the glory and majesty of creation, existence, and purpose. Mama always brings my thoughts back to her and the life that she led. It baffles me to think that God humbled Himself to be confined by our physicality. It boggles my mind even more to think that He endured the boundaries of time and nature to become the man that would conquer time and nature.
He chose thirty years of growing, learning, and becoming — all under the watchful eyes of Mary and Joseph. I can imagine that Mary delighted in all the same teaching moments that I love: pointing out birds in the sky to Jesus, telling him how the trees grow, teaching him to draw letters and speak words, showing him how to cook, and watching him learn carpentry and masonry from his dad. Every lesson reflected God’s glory and the true beauty of His law and love. Mary taught him to know God as He is. She was so full of grace that her guidance was divinely inspired, and Jesus came to know his world, his religion, and God through and by his mother.
I’m not an expert on Christology. But to deny that Mary taught and led Jesus to know God would be to deny his humanity. To think that he ever challenged or had a less-than-ideal understanding of it all would deny his divinity. In the end, we must realize that our Savior was a baby, toddler, child, adolescent, teenager, and young adult. And through every phase, his parents brought him up. “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40) By the time he was twelve, he was already amazing his parents — probably similarly to how we surprise and shock our parents and teachers when we understand and put into action what we were taught. I can only imagine how Mary’s heart must have lept for joy every time she saw her son growing into the man she knew he would become!
Who pointed out the shepherds to Jesus, and taught him how the sheep were gathered and guarded? Who taught him how the farmers planted and reaped, or how a vineyard was harvested? They were neither shepherds nor farmers. Who explained Scripture and taught verses to be committed to memory? Her love of God became a love of His law. Who gave an example of compassion that said no one should condemn another? Whose heart swelled when others were in need? Who showed true humility to her community, her husband, and God? Whose work ethic spoke of responsibility and gave glory to God?
His mother was all of those. She was the voice, the teacher, the guide that brought Jesus to know His Father. She was His mother… and she is ours.
The Incomprehensible has allowed Himself to be comprehended and perfectly contained by little Mary, without losing anything of His immensity. So also is it by the little Mary that we must let ourselves be held and guided perfectly without any reserve. (True Devotion, St. Louis de Montfort)
How could we ever deny or resist her invitation? Her love is so true and so deep, and she constantly gathers us to herself. When we are hers, she gives us to Christ.
In the times when I have put myself at her feet and allowed myself to be hers, I grew more than I ever thought possible. I wish we could all see the depth of her love for us, and be so enamored by her love that we seek her guidance always! She brought Jesus to know the world, and she will bring the world to know Jesus.
Prayer of Consecration to Mary
by Blessed Pope John Paul II
Immaculate Conception, Mary my Mother,
live in me, act in me, speak in and through me.
Think your thoughts in my mind.
Love through my heart.
Give me your dispositions and feelings.
Teach, lead, and guide me to Jesus.
Correct, enlighten, and expand my thoughts and behavior.
Possess my soul.
Take over my entire personality and life.
Replace it with yourself.
Incline me to constant adoration and thanksgiving.
Pray in and through me.
Let me live in you, and keep me in this union always.
My family was roadtrippin’ last week, headed to sister #2’s college graduation. We left late, after my parents could get home from work and pack. We piled in the car, and as usual, sister #4 and I entertained ourselves for about half an hour before promptly falling asleep. Pretty typical. It’s one of the small joys of letting Dad drive – you know you’ll get there safely, he doesn’t need you to stay awake, so you’re really just along for the ride. I love sleeping in the car!
We stop to get something to eat at McDonald’s (p.s. strawberry lemonade = so good!). I really only eat there when I’m on the road, so I take advantage of having two hands free and order a burger instead of the driver-friendly chicken nuggets. I’m chillin’ in the far back seat of the ‘burb’ as my sister passes the box back to me. As we jump back on the highway, the lights of that little exit faded quickly behind us. I am suddenly aware of how difficult it is to eat a burger in (almost) total darkness. I can hardly see what I’m doing, much less what I’m putting in my mouth! With each bite, I’m trusting that 1) it is what I expect it to be, and 2) it will fill me up and be good for me. It all tastes great, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t help but feel like I’m missing part of the experience of eating. Without anything to look at, I realize that presentation really does matter — maybe sight does have something to do with it! Part of the anticipation and the fullness of eating was lost in the dark.
Recently, I was reading someone’s perspective on Confirmation and the preparation for the sacrament… all the classes, catechesis, training, retreats, and completion of requirements. Before I could even absorb anything, I was thinking about our class of sophomore candidates and everything that still needed to be done or put in motion. I wondered about where they are, if they are ready, if they are sincerely willing. I thought of things that need to change, ways to reach them better, and on and on and on. I wasn’t really reading; I was skimming and thinking with far too much on my mind — until a single misspelling made me stop where I was and reconsider everything.
The world tells us that conformity is a terrible thing. Maybe the most despicable thing there is! Conforming means someone else has power, not you! Conforming means you have to sacrifice being true to yourself! You are brainwashed, controlled, and manipulated. So the world screams, increasingly louder: Don’t be conformed! Don’t let anyone tell you what to do! Freedom means doing what YOU think is right and necessary. The greatest evil is to let someone else control you.
It is a self-absorbed and hedonistic battle cry. Eventually, we realize that this battle is exhausting, never-ending, and will ultimately be devastatingly fatal. We begin to search for greater truth.
For our teens, this is the last step of initiation into the Catholic Church. This is the opportunity to take ownership, stand up, and claim the faith as Truth. It is the time to utter a final “yes” to be conformed to the Catholic Church, her teaching and tradition, and to Christ.
“Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”
— St. Ignatius of Loyola