I have written before that my spiritual life is owed to Mary. A few years ago, after a long period of lapsed faith, I felt suddenly called to pray the Rosary, which was followed by daily Mass attendance, then Confirmation into the Church, and the rest, as they say, is history.
It is impossible for me to separate my Catholic faith from a love for the Blessed Mother, and yet I know many Catholics – and certainly many non-Catholics – find the idea of praying to Mary, and seeking her intercession, puzzling at best and blasphemous at worst.
As many great saints have acknowledged, the sun cannot be eclipsed by the moon. Marian devotion is just that: the moon that is illumined by and reveals the shining love of Christ. We are called to form a relationship with Mary, a human person who was close to our Lord; this relationship will lead us to closer to Christ, and help us become the true persons God calls us to be.
Being, Serving, and Loving like Mary
Can you imagine anyone more worthy of emulation, after Christ, than His mother? It began with her “Yes” to the angel Gabriel, an astonishing act of humility, obedience, and courage, and the moment which changed the course of human history. Remember that, as a human, she had free will and could have said, “No.” Instead, she chose to submit to God’s will with full trust.
Courage and humility are the hallmarks of her life. Consider the crucifixion: it is acknowledged that Mary knew what was coming for her Son, at the very least because of Simeon’s declaration that her heart would be “pierced with a sword” (Luke 2:35). Yet there is nothing in the Bible to suggest she fought her Son’s fate. Instead, she was with Him through every moment, and to the moment of His death, even when most of His followers had fled in fear.
Her entire life was an act of service to her fellow man, as she was the one who raised Jesus, watching Him grow into the Christ, the Savior of the world. This shows us that everyone is called in some way to serve God. The Holy Spirit will use you, if you let Him, just as He did Mary.
Perhaps the most important way we can emulate Mary is in how she loved her Son. This is one of the key components of true Marian spirituality. A devotion to His mother does not deflect from the love one develops for Christ.
Deepening Your Relationship
The best way to develop a relationship with Mary is to begin where you are, with what you have. I had the privilege of being an active member of the Legion of Mary for a few years following my joyful Confirmation to the church, and I can tell you, there is no better training ground for spiritual development (in the Marian tradition or otherwise) than the Legion of Mary. A service-based organization, members spend equal time serving others in their community through works like prison or nursing home ministry, as well as meeting together to discuss the philosophy of the Church and her spiritual truths.
Can you imagine how quickly you would grow in such a setting, and what an antidote to the materialism of our world this form of Marian devotion is? It takes courage and a willing heart to go to unknown places – physically and mentally – and yet when you yield, even just a little bit, to what Our Lady has in store for you, the blessings are truly an abundance of riches.
Your True Self
That is how you find your true self: through practicing the virtues that Our Lady so beautifully displayed. Humility, service to others, love of her Son, and an acknowledgement of God’s presence in all things are hallmarks of one oriented to Christ, through His mother. She is known as the Mediatrix of All Graces: the one through whom all graces flow, a sign of Jesus’s love for His mother, that He would give her this important role.
If you feel called to a deeper relationship with Mary, even just a little bit, begin with a prayer. Speak to her as if she were your mother (she is) and ask for courage and guidance in following God’s plan for you. It is Mary’s greatest joy to lead her children to Jesus.
A prayer that I often said when I began my spiritual conversion (before I was even attending Mass regularly), and which I have shared before, is the Memorare. It tells you all you need to know about our Mother in Heaven.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.