These 4 Attributes of Mary Will Help You Become a Better Friend to Your Friends
Friendships can be enriched by Marian attributes — especially accompaniment, attentiveness, generosity and growth in the life of prayer.
It’s May. My thoughts are even more on Mary. So, I turned to one of my favorite authors, Carrie Gress, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and co-founder of the Theology of Home Project. She is my go-to on all things about Our Lady.
A few years ago, Gress wrote The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Femininity, showing how radical feminism had unleashed a malicious “anti-Marian spirit.” She describes the appearance of a woman caught in the snares of this spirit:
“She would rage against the idea of anything resembling humble obedience or self-sacrifice for others. She would be petulant, shallow, catty and over sensuous. She would also be self-absorbed, manipulative, gossipy, anxious, and self-servingly ambitious.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone like that,” I thought. And then I thought some more: If friendships can be consumed by an “anti-Marian” spirit, they can be enriched by Marian attributes.
Looking at the Gospels and tradition, I think I have spotted a few of the Marian attributes of friendship: accompaniment, attentiveness, generosity and growth in the life of prayer.
One of the most inspiring Gospel accounts of accompaniment is Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Mary certainly had a good excuse for staying put, but she went to offer help and companionship. And she didn’t pop in for just a few minutes. Mary remained with Elizabeth for a long time.
Sometimes we’ve only got a few minutes to send a short text or call a friend while driving from one end of town to another. But true accompaniment is an investment in friendship that yields trust and confidence. When we sit with a friend and can be together without the haste of having to be somewhere else, friendship takes on a Marian character.
I love the Gospel scene of the wedding feast of Cana. Jesus’ first public miracle happens. He institutes the sacrament of marriage. Good wine is involved. Quite a lot of it, by the sound of things. The account beautifully showcases the Marian attribute of attentiveness. “They have no wine” — a disaster!
Attention to the needs of our friends means getting out of the house and doing stuff. We prepare and send over a meal for a friend with a new baby, we babysit for a friend with a special needs child, we take pictures during a first Communion ceremony or baptism so our friend can be by her son or daughter’s side. Our Lady wants us to do this, and more. Marian attentiveness means following up with a friend who seems down, anxious or might be having a tough time. So often the first step toward resolving serious problems is taken after a friend notices that something is up.
With attentiveness goes generosity. Now, generosity is a natural human instinct, but that doesn't mean it comes naturally to us when it’s needed most. This is where devotion to Mary can really make all the difference. She was wonderfully generous to God from the moment the Angel Gabriel broke some rather challenging news to her. She wants us to follow her example. Easier said than done, of course — so this is where you might call on Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This is a devotion based on a radiantly beautiful Byzantine icon that has been embraced by the Western Church and especially the Redemptorist order. If you're not familiar with it, look at it online now and you'll instantly understand why it's special. It can unlock our Marian generosity, prompting us to leave room for changing plans in the service of a friend.
Growth in the Life of Prayer
The fourth Marian attribute of friendship is one of the most powerful: the ability to grow together in prayer. May is a month where I try to make a Marian pilgrimage with friends. We pray a mystery of the Rosary on our way to a shrine or church dedicated to Mary — one mystery while we are there, and another on our return home. It’s an intimate way to share a life of prayer for our special intentions.
Pope Francis also suggests this year that Catholics should unite worldwide every day throughout the month of May to pray the Rosary in petition for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and divine assistance for those most affected by the disease and its consequences. This month, 30 representative shrines throughout the world will lead us in a Marian prayer, which will be broadcast live on the official channels of the Holy See at 6pm (Rome time) every day. Praying the Rosary for the Pope’s intentions this month can enrich our families. Inviting a friend to join us — even if it means praying the Rosary more than once a day — can enrich our friendship as well. Don't be embarrassed to ask!
And, finally, remember four extraordinary and powerful words: “To Jesus through Mary.” This is an expression generally attributed to St. Louis de Montfort in his True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. It encourages us to entrust ourselves to Mary in imitation of Christ. In other words, it goes to the heart of everything. By infusing our friendships with her attributes, Mary will bring us all to her Divine Son.