(here's the talk I gave this morning. went well, just a little short for my attempted half-hour time frame. but a beautiful morning of grace and reflection on Mary)
Your Kingdom Come!
Mary, Mother and Model of Virtue
Formation Talk, Regnum Christi Morning of Reflection
May 13, 2008
A couple days ago we celebrated Pentecost and Mother’s Day. We honored our own mothers and might have been honored ourselves. We might have reflected on how blessed we are to have mothers to look up to, or how thankful we are to be a wife and mother. Maybe we even thought about our Heavenly Mother, the model for all of us in motherhood. How can we model our motherhood after Mary?
His mother said to the servers “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5) at the Wedding at Cana. And here begins Christ’s earthly ministry, following the instruction of his mother, as the servers bring him water and he turns it into wine. I’ve always found such depth in this Gospel…Mary leading us to Christ, their participation in the wedding festivities, Christ’s first miracle, the beginning of his public ministry, and the way he first reveals his glory to the disciples.
Mary always points us to her Son. But how does she do this on a human level? She is the Mother and model of all Virtue. She exhibits all of those spiritual and human virtues that we long to posses.
Let’s take a minute to think about our own mother. Think about the ways she lead you to Christ on a human level. Now think of 3 virtues that you most admire about your own mother. If you’re able, write them down. Some of us may have mothers who aren’t practicing Catholics, maybe not even Christian, or possibly not very devout. But I challenge you to think of those human virtues that have directed us to Christ whether we recognized it or not.
They might be things like acceptance, caution, flexibility, forgiveness, gentleness, honesty, prudence, simplicity, strength or trust. Take a few minutes to jot them down.
As I’ve reflected on my mother, one virtue that most comes to mind is her patience. I can’t recall her ever raising her voice to us. I can’t recall her ever getting angry. She shows calmness, gentleness, and patience in the face of trial. This patience is an example of Christ’s love for me and his patience with me when I sin.
Another human virtue my mother possesses is her creativity. Her mind is always thinking of new and beautiful things and her hands are rarely idle. She has a degree in art and has always had some sort of art project going on. Her talents have allowed her to create a family business that supports many people. Her creativity is also apparent in the home. We always lived in a pleasant and attractive home, drawing our minds and souls to peace and harmony…which in turn leads us to God.
And finally, I admire my mother’s forgiveness. She looks on those who’ve hurt her with love and continues to seek good for them. She taught us to never hold a grudge and to realize that we never know the heart of someone else. She continues to try to reconcile over and over again, especially with family members who may be distant in location, in mind, or in heart. She respects their differences but hopes in God’s forgiveness and trusts in his mercy. She has helped me to be faithful in forgiving others.
Now let’s take a few minutes to reflect about a mother, besides our own, who we most admire, preferably a woman who is still living. Think about what it is that draws us to this woman, what we admire most about her. What 3 virtues do we most want to emulate? Take a minute to write those down.
I am blessed to say that a mother who I most admire is my mother-in-law. My husband is the youngest of 7 children of a beautiful Catholic family. They are a family who seems to far from the norm in today’s society because they all get along. They love each other, respect each other’s differences, and help each other like no family I’ve ever encountered. And the heart of this family is his mother.
First of all, I admire my mother in law’s humility. She never talks about herself or boasts about good things she has done. She has a quiet faith and a humble heart. My husband once told me she prays the rosary every day, but had never told anyone until he asked. Her bearing is modest and She stays away from the limelight. She finds a quiet soul to speak with amidst the chaos of big family events. She is very generous in her giving but never wants it acknowledged. She respects other’s differences and rarely gives advice unless asked. She shows me Christ, who is meek and humble of heart.
Secondly, I admire my mother-in-law’s prudence. I have never seen or heard of her making a rash decision. She is very frugal in her spending and rarely spends money on herself. My husband has lots of memories of growing up and his mother’s thriftiness. They rarely ever ate out at a restaurant or spent money on silly things. She helped her husband to manage their resources to support their 7 children through Catholic schooling, even though I’m sure it was very difficult. I have seen her evaluate situations while shopping…she takes her time to make the most prudent decisions for her family. I admire this virtue very much in her because it shows that she honors Christ in her decisions and day-to-day matters.
But one of the virtues I admire most about her (since I’m working on it myself) is her discipline. Her home is always in order, the way she completes jobs follows a method. She does things with thought, from the way she gets a glass from the cupboard to the way she cooks a meal, or even the way she cleans the home. She does things slowly and methodically (unlike my own tendency to rush around hastily) and she shows self-control when faced with excitement. She keeps order in her days, with her waking and work, her meal-making and other events. This helps to keep her husband and her family at peace, brings harmony to her home, and helps to lead us to Christ through an ordered and disciplined life.
It’s interesting to me to recognize myself doing things just the way my mother did. There is the story of the woman who cut the end off her roast every time she cooked, so her daughter did the same, and her daughter did the same. The granddaughter asked the mother why she did it. “Well, because that’s what my mother always did.” But when she finally asked her grandmother why she cut the end, she found it was because her pan was too small! Don’t we sometimes do things like this out of habit, without thinking them through? Are we following the examples of family or friends around us just because that’s what we’re used to?
But yet other times we can see ourselves admiring something we have seen other mothers do. Then we make an effort to imitate them ourselves. Maybe we admire the way our friend prays with her children, or maybe we like the way our aunt planned her meals, maybe we see the care with which our neighbor cares for her garden, or maybe we see how our mother cares for her dying father with grace. We can take these examples of virtuous behavior, these little helpful hints, to guide us to holiness.
I think also of the virtues of Fr. Maciel’s mother, Mama Maurita. She dedicated her life to her 11 children and showed them to see God’s hand in all that happened in their lives. She taught them to have spontaneous, cordial dialogues with Jesus and Mary. She cared for the sick and the poor in the village, even the lepers. Nuestro Padre writes:
“She had something for everyone. She always had a good word for everyone. She provided them all with medicine…They came when their husband or child had died…She’d console them, sit with them, speak to them about God, about patient acceptance, about heaven, and so on. There was a continuous mission going on here.”
Mama Maurita was a great example of virtue and imitation of Mary. She knew that the best example of holiness in motherhood is Our Lady. Mary was perfect in every virtue; she lived motherhood to the fullest. The Catechism tells us that:
967 By her complete adherence to the Father's will, to his Son's redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church's model of faith and charity. Thus she is a "preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church"; indeed, she is the "exemplary realization" (typus)508 of the Church.
968 Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. "In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace."
We can look to Mary who was perfect in every virtue. She showed the perfection of the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. And she possessed the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
By her faith, she freely committed her life to God. She sought to know and do his will. She also knew that faith without works is dead, and she showed her living faith through her charity.
Mary had the hope of Heaven and placed her trust in God as the source of her happiness. Her hope was expressed and nourished through her prayer so that she could face the most difficult tribulation of watching the suffering and death of her Son. And after his death, she allowed the Holy Spirit to continue to pour out his grace into her soul, to keep her from discouragement, to aid in the beginnings of the Church, and to give her hope in the glory of Heaven where she would be united with her Son for all eternity.
Finally, Mary perfected that one virtue we all long to posses…that burning charity. She loved God above all else and loved her neighbor as herself. The Catechism states that:
1827 The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which "binds everything together in perfect harmony";105 it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.
And so Mary, by her charity joins “in bringing out the birth of believers in the Church who are members of its head.” (CCC 963)” She is the Mother of Christ, the Mother of the Church, and the Mother of us all.
We can reflect further in prayer on these virtues of Mary. We can thank her for being our model and ask her to show us how to form these virtues in our lives. We can go to her as a child goes to her mother to share our concerns with her and find care, consolation, friendship, and love. We can take our loved ones in prayer to Mary that she would entrust them to her Son. Mary models virtue for us and mothers us in virtue.
As I conclude, I’d like to challenge each of us to grow in virtue in imitation of Mary. I’d also like to propose a resolution that in honor of our earthly mothers and those mothers who we admire, that we would take time this week to call them or write a letter, to share with them how their virtues have led us to Christ. We can thank them for being a wonderful and virtuous mother as Mary was and is to us.
And I’d like to thank each of you, as a young Regnum Christi mother still learning the ropes, for being examples of faithful mothers to me. I have grown in virtue from the examples of many of you and I know we have all supported each other in prayer. Thank you and God bless you. Happy Mother’s Day!