Growing up I wanted to learn about Mary, the mother of Jesus. I was named after her, so I was also curious to learn about her. I had the idea she was quiet and in the background of Jesus’ life.
I tend to be a quiet person myself. In fact, when I was little I was dubbed “quiet little Mary” by others. In catechism class when I was in first grade or so, my teacher wanted to have a live nativity scene at Christmas time for our parents. She was inspired to cast me as Mary and my classmate Joseph as . . . you guessed it, Joseph! She thought it would be great fun! I thought I would be out the door as fast as I could if I could get away with it! I did not want to be the center of attention with Joseph. I was the word “mortified” in the flesh. At that time, though, I realized that I did not know a lot about Mary. I was curious to find out more.
Now that I am a mother, I am still curious to learn more about Mary and apply to my life the virtues and characteristics I see in her. This is a tall order! Yes, Mary is my mother, but she is not like me. Or, rather, I am not like her.
How can I be more like Mary?
Know who Mary is.
I cannot say I want to be like her if I do not know who she is. What do I already know about her?
She is full of grace. She is blessed among women. She is a mother who is deeply loved by her Son. She is kind and patient.
She discerned and followed God’s will for her life. She was chosen to be the mother of our Savior, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Of all the women who have lived and will ever live on the earth, Mary was chosen by God to bear His Son.
Mary said yes to God. She said yes to His call to her and she devoted herself to that call. She was faithful.
Where can I learn more about Mary? I can read about her in the Bible and I can learn about her from the rich history of our Catholic faith.
Know why I want to be more like Mary.
Why do I want to be more like Mary? What do I admire about her? Do I just say I want to be more like her because I think I should be since I am a woman and a mother, or because I truly want to be more like her? Do I even want to try?
Yes, I want to try. She is the epitome of discipleship and motherhood. She sought God’s will in her life and she obeyed Him no matter what, fully trusting in Him. That to me is an amazing example.
I have come to realize that being like Mary is not just emulating her as a mother, it is emulating her amazing example as a faithful woman devoted to God. Through the faith and trust she had in God she became the mother we admire, the mother we honor and recognize as the mother above all mothers. Her motherhood stems from God in reality and in faith.
Yes, I want to have a faith strong like Mary’s and therefore a motherhood like hers to my children.
Know my limitations.
I am not full of grace as Mary was.
Now, I ask: why am I not? Hum . . . I was not born full of grace. This is true, but it does not let me off the hook completely! Why not? Because Jesus instituted the sacrament of Confession (or Reconciliation). Therefore, I can be filled with God’s grace when I am reconciled with Him. Granted, I have the predisposition to sin since I was born with original sin (and Mary was not), but I can go to this sacrament as often as I want to. I should go often!
Know my goals.
What about Mary do I want to emulate? What example of hers do I want to embody for myself? I should start with one or two. I want to make this manageable, not overwhelming for myself! Starting small will help me to be successful.
So then, which two characteristics do I want to work on in myself?
To figure this out, I can go about this in two different ways. I can look at something in Mary that I admire and copy that or I can look at myself and see where I lack and what I need to work on developing more in myself and then find out how Mary embodied what I lack. Then, copy her.
I could also combine these ideas and select one from each: one way I want to grow and one way I need to improve or develop.
I need to make the time to pray about this. How is God calling me to alter my life and myself inside? How is He calling me to Him through the example of His mother?
Make a plan of action.
Now, what do I do?
After I have prayed for guidance and evaluated myself in where I want to improve and grow, I should study Mary. Thinking of her as a mentor is an idea I like. I can study about her in the Bible and in the teachings of the Church. In knowing how she lived the virtues and characteristics I want to develop more in myself, I can learn from her and apply techniques to my daily life to develop them within myself.
I think my technique will be to practice. Practice, practice, practice. I can practice daily the virtues and characteristics of Mary that I want to emulate. We learn by doing, and we certainly have the opportunity to practice in the daily life of a family.
Evaluate my progress.
Planning time to evaluate how I am doing is important. I can do this in the morning or evening, or sometime during the day. I can do this prayerfully before or after Mass.
Having regular prayerful check-ins with God will help me to stay on track and grow. I intend for this to be joyful, not burdensome. I know that God understands this of me and He will meet me where I am and help me.
Have extra help.
I anticipate this being joyful on some days (or just some moments) and challenging in others. Extra help will be a great thing!
Besides going to Confession more often than the penance services twice a year at our church, receiving Holy Communion at Mass is another opportunity to be filled with God’s grace. Going to Mass during the week if possible is also beneficial in helping me grow as a disciple of Christ and as a mother.
Getting in God’s grace and then staying in God’s grace through the sacraments are important factors I long overlooked in my quest to be a better disciple of Christ and a better mother. I can think of grace as God’s power in me to help me live as He wants for me to live. Grace is God’s power living in me. I need to make use of it.
Journey with Mary and the saints.
I am not alone. I have Mary my mother walking beside me. One thing about Mary that stands out to me is her words to the servers at the wedding feast at Cana, “Do what He tells you.” Do what Jesus tells you. How happy Mary is to see us wanting to walk closer to Jesus! She will help us. We just need to ask.
We have the saints in Heaven on our side, too. We are all part of one Church, one body in Jesus Christ. I am amazed when I contemplate this. I need to remind myself of this more often. We are not alone. We can ask those in Heaven to pray for us.
The next step
In putting this all together, I need to be clear about what virtues and characteristics I want to develop. I will study more about Mary in the Bible and in our Church teachings. Prayerfully, I will decide how I will put what I learn into practice. I will make time to prayerfully evaluate how I am doing. I will go to Confession more often than twice a year and I will go to Mass during the week when I can. I will ask God for the graces to live my life as He wants me to. I will remember the extra help of those in Heaven who are praying for me.
One more thing I need to do is to be patient with myself and not get discouraged. As I wrote above, Mary is my mother, but she is not like me. Or, rather, I am not like her. Still, I can learn from her and ask her to pray for me as I strive to follow her example and develop a closer relationship with her Son and be an amazing mother to my children. She is standing with me, pointing the way to her Son.
Which characteristic do you see in Mary that you want to grow more within yourself?