When I taught religion at Beloit Catholic High, I asked some of my students to share their impressions of the Blessed Mother.
What did they think of Mary? How has Mary influenced them? Some of their responses surprised and delighted me.
Impressions of Mary
One girl wrote, "If I could be anyone else, I would like to be Mary. Mary shows us how to live, regardless of the circumstances."
Another girl added, "When I think of Mary, I see a beautiful young girl fully in love with God. I see her loving and caring for all with whom she comes into contact."
Finally a boy wrote, "Mary is the mother of the Church as well as the mother of all persons on earth. She is the symbol of peace, love, and joy."
William Wordsworth seemed to reflect the respect of these teens for Mary when he wrote poetically that Mary is ''our tainted nature's solitary boast."
Free from sin
In the words of The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, Mary is God's masterpiece, transformed by him into a luminous witness of grace from the moment of her conception.
These words describe the Church's teaching of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception that "from the moment of her conception, Mary was free from sin." The angel Gabriel rightly addressed her as "full of grace."
Mary is the model of who we should be as Christians. She is the sign of what we would have been if there had never been original sin. The longing to be like Mary is reflected in the words of the first girl who wanted to be like Mary.
God preserved Mary free from original sin from the moment of her conception so that she could be the worthy mother of Jesus. It was the dream of every Jewish girl to be the mother of the Messiah.
Wisdom and grace
The second girl said that Mary was fully in love with God. God chose Mary, graced masterpiece of love, so that she could nurture Jesus with pure love and help him in his human nature "to advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man" as stated in Luke 2:52.
God chose Mary, a prayerful reflective person, so she could prayerfully ponder the mysterious graced events of her life, respond in faith, and continue to do God's will.
It is a grace that we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 during Advent, because it is the season when we wait patiently for the birth of Christ at Christmas.
Mary is the patroness of Advent because she waited for the birth of Jesus as no one else ever waited. For she conceived and carried Christ in her womb next to her heart. Mary longed to give birth to Jesus and offer him to the world.
The first girl stated that Mary can teach us how to live, regardless of the circumstances. Despite the distractions and hurried pace before Christmas, Mary's example can help us to use Advent to prepare for Christmas. We can strive to pray as Mary prayed.
Mary can inspire young and older persons to live holy and chaste lives. She is a model for mothers and she can inspire us to respect the lives of unborn babies. Mary can offer us guidance and strength in our battle with evil. She can inspire us to imitate Christ and her in many other ways.
Mother of all
Under the title of Immaculate Conception, Mary is the patroness of our country. In Washington, D.C., a beautiful basilica has been built to honor Mary.
Mary can inspire us to thank God for the blessings of our country. At the same time through Mary's intercession, we can ask God to mend our flaws and the flaws of our country so we can become more like her.
The words of the boy remind us that Mary is not only the physical mother of Jesus, but she is also our spiritual mother. The boy added correctly that Mary is the symbol of peace, love, and joy.
Therefore, we should honor her and ask her intercession to help us to bring God's peace, love, and joy to others. Mary placed Christ in a manger, a feeding trough, to remind us that Christ came to be food for our souls in the Word, the Eucharist, and in other ways.
Fr. Kevin O'Shea, in a Marian series of talks, said that Mary was so in love with God that she conceived Jesus in her heart before her womb.
May the Advent season inspire us to conceive Christ in the crib of our heart and share him with others not only on Christmas but every day.
May each of you enjoy a blessed Advent that prepares you for Christmas like Mary.
Fr. Don Lange is pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.
Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
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