May is the month of Mary, and Mother’s Day is the perfect time to reflect on the Mother of God’s virtues.
Our Blessed Mother practiced every virtue, as highlighted in the Litany of Loreto or the Chaplet of the 10 Evangelical Virtues.
In her new book, Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom (Ave Maria Press, 2013), author Marge Fenelon focuses on 10 virtues in Mary’s life that Catholic moms — and any woman — can relate to.
From her top 10, she highlights five for the Register, beginning with Trust.
"That’s the one most people have difficulty with," she said, because living amid today’s widespread prove-it-concretely-or-I-won’t-believe-it mentality often gets in the way.
But Mary didn’t have any possible way, humanly speaking, to prove or explain to Joseph that it was God’s Son she was carrying, Fenelon relates. When the angel comes and asks her to be the Mother of the Son of God, "she can do no other than say, ‘Yes,’ because of who she is, the perfect child of God. She had at least a glimpse that this was not going to be easy."
But she simply trusted because God asked her to — and she knew that he was going to show her the way.
This trust is related to Obedience.
Mary’s Magnificat illustrates this. "‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me, according to your word,’ shows her loving obedience," points out Father Roger Landry, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River, Mass., and an EWTN commentator.
"In order to be as trustful as we need to be," Fenelon notes, "we need to be obedient. It’s not going to make sense and not always feel good. But because God has the perfect plan for us, we have to be obedient and follow along. That’s exactly what Mary did."
In the midst of her personal turmoil, Mary goes to help her cousin Elizabeth.
"That had to have been ever so difficult. But she obeyed," says Fenelon.
There are many situations where we have to put our own dilemmas aside and obey what God is asking of us, Fenelon explains.
Mary prayed her Magnificat during her visit with Elizabeth, and we can pray our own Magnificat, points out Fenelon: "No matter how unworthy or incapable we feel about a task, we have to daily look at the amazing things God has done in and through us already, and that gives us the courage to move forward."
Sarah Swafford — a Catholic wife and mother of two boys and one girl, ages 2 through 7, and speaker and founder of EmotionalVirtue.com — says that these virtues together should remind women not to worry.
"One of the things women do most is worry," Swafford says. "In the Bible, it never talks about Mary being worried. She had unwavering trust in God’s will and in God’s plan."
In the midst of everyday mom worries, she looks to Mary as a reminder: "I look at Mary and at her trust and integrity and obedience; and when you know you’re doing the right thing, you don’t worry," she explains.
That leads Swafford to Mary’s example of Humility.
"Mary is the model of true humility," she notes. She quotes C.S. Lewis’ definition of humility: "True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less."
"I think Mary is the perfect example of that," Swafford says. "She doesn’t say, ‘Sorry God, I’m not going to be good enough.’"
Swafford encourages women to realize that "the Lord is going to help me to do this, and I’m going to have confidence in him and be the soft clay. (Knowing) God helps me do it for the glory of God makes it easier."
"When you can take the emphasis off yourself and place it on your family, your husband, what God wants you to do, you can feel God working through you," Swafford adds.
This leads to the virtues of Hope and Joy.
Mary’s hope is what people need to model amid the turmoil and trials of modern life, believes Fenelon. "Mary teaches us that you have to cling to hope," Fenelon emphasizes.
At Cana, Mary tells Jesus that the wedding couple has no wine. "She waits in certain hope," Fenelon says, for Jesus to address her request.
"We have to wait and have hope like Mary, that, in his own way and in his own timing, Our Lord will fulfill that request (of ours)."
Joy is another absolutely necessary virtue in these times, insists Fenelon — "joy in being able to rest in God’s plan."
In Mary’s life, we see joy in the Resurrection and Pentecost, but it comes after the Passion and Crucifixion. She saw that despair gives way to true joy and life in Christ.
"We need to remember that part of her life — that joy — and take joy in the successes of (us and) others moving forward in the faith," Fenelon says.
These two virtues are ones the Catholic life emphasizes, explains Jesuit Father James Kubicki, national director of the Apostleship of Prayer.
"A big part of Pope Benedict’s and now Pope Francis’ teaching is that joy attracts," Father Kubicki says. "If we are to witness to the faith, Catholics need to be people of hope and joy, because that is the only way people will be drawn to the faith and to Jesus Christ, who is the source of our hope and our joy."
Father Kubicki ties these five virtues of Mary together this way: Adam and Eve’s sin was due to lack of trust and obedience; Mary undoes that through her trust and obedience.
"For all of us to be true children of God, we need to be like Mary rather than like Adam and Eve," he said. "We need to trust God’s plan for us and obey his will.
"Mary, in proclaiming her Magnificat — ‘My soul rejoices in God, my Savior’ — shows us that true joy is not found apart from God, but in humility."
Adds Swafford: Mary shows us that "it’s not about me, but about what God wants me to do."
Timely reminders for modern moms, women of all ages — and all of the faithful.
Joseph Pronechen is the
Register’s staff writer.