Claire Callahan A sinner striving to become a saint.
September 8th, 2019, the twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, is typically the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. However, this year, the day of the Resurrection of the Lord takes precedence over it. We celebrate her birth nine months after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Later this week, we celebrate the memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary. This is the day to reflect on Mary before she became the Blessed Virgin and Our Mother. Before the most defining moments of her life, the Annunciation and the Foot of the Cross of Jesus. She was blessed and chosen, and we can learn much from her childhood.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t often think about Mary as a child. Virgin, Queen, and Mother sure, but during this season of my life, God has me learning what it means to become childlike. To possess greater faith, hope, and love. It’s funny these are what we pray for on our rosaries. These virtues are exemplified in Mary because as a child, she practiced them! To become good at something, we must practice. She learned the Scriptures from her Mother and Father, and she humbly lived out her daily life with a purity of heart. We know this from her conception. But before we can say, “Hail Mary full of Grace,” I invite you to imagine Mary as a child. Did she laugh or cry easily? Was she full of energy and rambunctious? Would she help tend the lambs and animals around her home? Knowing more about her years as a young woman and Mother, I think we can say, she must have been a humble and special child. She was indeed full of Grace. A beautiful definition of Grace from Pope Francis describes it as the amount of light in our souls. Mary is the Morning Star (Litany of Loreto). We can look to her as a child. This is encouraging--she can help us regain our innocence and become more of who we are supposed to be. Children are not afraid to laugh or cry--they feel emotions strongly. Yet, they know that the mercy and love of the Father are more significant than all other considerations. Children trust freely, they have faith that things will be taken care of for them, and they hope for a better tomorrow!
"As young adults attempting to be childlike, we must make a choice. We must choose to have faith, we must offer to trust, and we must ask for the desire to pray."
Holy Scripture says, “And [Jesus] calling to himself a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4). As young-adults trying to be childlike, we must make a choice. We must choose to have faith, we must offer to trust, we must ask for the desire to pray. Daily we can turn, turn back to God when we fail to be “childlike.” We repent. We take up our desire for purity of heart and strive anew. We can see the examples of children in our own families and learn from them about wonder and living in the present moment. Typically, they are not worried about the future, but instead are amazed at the flutter of the butterfly or new pair of light-up shoes! As a child, I do not believe Mary concerned herself with anxieties regarding her future. She would have enjoyed Anne’s cooking and Joachim’s hugs. Her birth changes everything. It is from Her we see the most exceptional example of “yes” resulting in the birth of Our Savior. If we want to obtain a childlike Faith, the Blessed Mother is one of the best examples we as Christians have. Her adult life was lived for ONLY for God and comes from the foundation of a humble childhood.
While performing my work at St. Joseph University Parish, I almost daily see the statue of St. Anne with the child Mary. It looks as though Saint Anne was teaching, but by Mary’s gaze heavenward with her right-hand open and her left hand on her heart, she seems to be listening intently to the voice of God. St. Anne has a comforting, maternal arm around her daughter’s shoulder and in her other hand, a scroll of which is written in Latin. The scroll reads “Egredietur Virga de Radice Jesse” which means, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root (Isaiah 11:1). Blessed Albert the Great remarks on these words, that the divine flower, that is to say, the Only-Begotten Son of God, was to be born, not from the summit, nor from the trunk of the tree of Jesse, but from the root, precisely to denote the humility of the Mother: by the root, humility of heart is understood” (Liguori, 307). Mary body and soul has forever maintained her childlike faith and trust. Her humility and meekness are her greatest virtues, and it is from this childlike innocence that all other virtues spring forth. May each of us pray for the Grace of childlike faith and disposition toward God and neighbor. Living by the example of Mary our Mother, and with her intercession, may the peace of the Holy Spirit that stems from that indelible, all-encompassing, love of Christ, be with us every day of our lives.