Five Things the Spiritual Exercises Taught Me about Mary

Five Things the Spiritual Exercises Taught Me about Mary

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?


  1. Great article topic that floored me because of the shared experience. I found Mary in a new way in the Spiritual Exercises, too. In Week 2 I saw how much Jesus learned from her about both his Jewish spiritual heritage and about prayer. I imagined how Mary, whose life was lived in friendship with God, might go away early in the morning to be quiet with God for a while, and how Jesus may have seen her do this as a child, and then continued the practice himself in his active ministry. I saw too in a new way how she treasured God’s word, not only the words God spoke to her but also the words of the Torah, and the Psalms, and the Prophets, and how she responded to Jesus’ burgeoning love of the Word with encouragement and support (after getting over being scared and angry when he disappeared in Jerusalem.) Later, I saw how Mary suffered with Jesus, while holding him with wisdom. She knew how to suffer without holding back…and I saw her, on Good Friday evening, sitting in John’s apartments at the most devastating moment for her and all of the disciples, starting to tell stories and remember Jesus to the others, to teach them about what he had been like as a child…which was one of the beginnings of Church. Thanks again for this beautiful and important topic. I am blessing your ministry with both hands Becky.

  2. I’m blessed by what I read about other people’s revelation of vho Mary the mother of our Saviour was. She treasured all, not some of these in her heart,hence she became a Blessing to the whole world. Let’s do likewise & our world will be a different one altogether. God bless you everyone…

  3. Previously I have listened to, or read the story of the visit of Gabriel as a familiar, well-known passage of scripture that no longer needed to be really listened to. I was wrong. This year my attention was caught by the ending of the account:
    ” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.”
    This young girl, single but betrothed, with her future already mapped out, is suddenly confronted with this potentially devastating news that throws her entire future back into the melting pot – and? “Then the angel departed from her.”
    Now I had a whole new question to reflect on; how must she have felt?

  4. I pray to Mary for my adult children and my grand daughters, one in particular. There is so much that I can’t do for them and I just have to leave it in God’s hands; so I petition Mary ,the Mother of all to watch over them. I always felt such pity for Mary when Jesus was being born. Away from her family ,no women around, very different to the culture of the day.Saying “YES” to God, not knowing where it would lead. I need to pray to her more.

  5. Mother Mary inspires me as a mother to suffer silently for my children and to pray for their future to be filled with the holy Spirit.

  6. Every time I read about Mary saying “Yes” to God takes me back to that moment. Can you imagine how the whole world was waiting for her answer in that moment? Can you picture how every creature on the earth held its breath to hear her answer? Can you imagine how all the creatures let out their breath with relief when she answered “Yes”? Can you imagine? Without her “Yes”, we wouldn’t have our savior. Without our savior, we wouldn’t have our faith. She trusted God not knowing what was in the future. Mary, the favored one, the one who was overshadowed by the power of the Most High, is our mother. What a blessing it is to know her and to call her our mother. I never understood or knew about Mother Mary until recently. It is the greatest blessing that was given and shown to me. Yes, it should be every mother’s and every women’s prayer to follow Mother Mary’s example as our role model.

  7. I realized the blessing it is to us and me that Mary “kept/treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Without that quality of hers, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t have most of the early chapters of Luke! We would be missing the Anunciation and infancy narratives, her Magnificat, the songs of Elizabeth, of Zechariah, and of Simeon. Thank you, Mary, for keeping these things for us and sharing them with us.

  8. As a convert or technically a “transfer” to the Roman Catholic expression of the Christian faith in 2004, rather late in life I might add, I had no real history of connecting with Mary although a few times I did ask her to intercede for my adult children. When I made the Spiritual Exercises, I experienced a whole new respect for and connection with Mary. As I reflected on Mary’s “yes” I was humbled and was drawn closer to Jesus. As I journeyed through the Passion, I felt Jesus’ pain but also Mary’s incredible heartache at seeing her son suffer so and then die on the cross. One of the reflections that remains in my memory is spending time with Jesus in the character of Mary after the resurrection. We sat in John’s little home and talked and I knew (as Mary) that our time together would not be long. My love for Jesus has grown through getting to know and respect Mother Mary. Mary leads us to her son who is our Lord and the Creator of all that is.

  9. I was reminded of how Mary has helped me raise my 5 children; by Her “yes” she shows how she trusted God without knowing her and His future. As a Jew, waiting for the Messiah, she must have believed He would be King. But she did not know the future of how things would unfold. She trusted in God and then discovered as she went along beside Him in life, all the worries of a mother, and the sorrow of His death. There were many sorrowful happenings in their lives, but there was also great joy for them and for all of us in his Resurrection.


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