A few weeks ago, I reflected on what the Spiritual Exercises taught me about Jesus. Since then, my mind began pondering what the Spiritual Exercises taught me about Jesus’ mother, Mary.
- I really like Mary! I am a born and raised Catholic, who did not really understand Mary’s significance until the Spiritual Exercises. It was through the nativity Scriptures that I suddenly grasped the significance of her role in our faith. I literally prayed those passages with a “baby in my arms” as Abby, my daughter, was only six months old as I entered the Second Week of the Exercises. Holding a child in my arms as I prayed through Luke’s nativity story bonded me to Mary, as a fellow mother of a human child, who nurtured and loved him the way every mother does our children.
- Mary pondered. “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) This little line continues to teach me about prayer, about discernment, and about watching two children grow into the people they are meant to be. How often does something come to my attention for a brief moment in my day that causes me to pause and go “hmmm”? In those moments, I find myself tucking them away in my heart, knowing that God through this tiny moment has more to teach me. I often notice things about my children too that make me pause and wonder, “What does this mean for the man and woman my children will eventually become?”
- Mary’s “yes” changed the world. If there was ever an example of being an active participant in God’s work, Mary is the epitome of it. We are not just invited to pray, but we are invited to say “yes” when we are called to help God answer the prayers of others who cry out for God’s help in this world.
- Mary suffered and grieved. During the Third Week of the Exercises, I found myself often standing next to Mary during Jesus’ passion. Bonded through our motherhood, my heart ached for Mary as she watched her son endure such terrible mockery and pain. When I am faced with the heartache of watching my children suffer, I find myself asking Mary to help me pray for them. In my own suffering, I often ask Mary to help pray for me to hold onto the hope of the Resurrection, because she experienced both the passion of her son and the Resurrection of her son, firsthand.
- Mary has much to teach me as a mother. Ignatius invites us during the Fourth Week of the Exercises to ponder and pray with the idea of Jesus appearing to Mary after his Resurrection. I cannot even begin to put into words the joy Mary must have felt at seeing her son again. I asked myself frequently during that meditation, “Did Mary know seeing her son again was short-lived? Did she know she would have to let him go again?” The letting goes I face with my young children are small in comparison, but there are many things I must let go of over time so my children can be the people they are meant to be. Mary shows me to trust that my children will find their way, will find and embrace the love of God, and will find what God is inviting them to.
What have the Spiritual Exercises taught you about Mary?