September 8, 2011

A Birthday and a Jubilee

Nativity of Mary by Domenico Ghirlandaio
Today is the Feast of the Nativity of Our Blessed Mother. I wrote a little about the birth of Mary in a post last May as part of my look at Marian art. It is one of three feasts in the liturgical year that celebrate a nativity. The other two are John the Baptist and of course our Lord Jesus. Today is also the Golden Jubilee of a former professor of mine's entrance into religious life and we will celebrating with her on Saturday.  

Mother and Infant by
Mary Cassat
In reflecting upon these two events I am drawn to meditate on the two womanly vocations of motherhood and consecrated life as a woman religious.  Mary is the model for both vocations.  As a mother, I look to Mary as a mother and a wife, as a woman who kept a home and raised her Child to adulthood. She experienced the joys and sorrows of motherhood.  I will always remember after my first child was baptized the women from the parish Legion of Mary came to my home to deliver my daughter's baptismal certificate to me.  One of the women told me that I have been given a gift  that I share with Mary and that I should pray to her to help me in my motherhood.  I have not always followed that advice and there have been times when I have felt that Mary really didn't have any relevance in my life. But lately I have tried to increase my devotion to her.  I still don't "feel" any consolations or sense her watching over me, but I have learned that faith is more than feelings and that I should not seek consolations (thank you John of the Cross).  However, I do have evidence that Mary is listening to my prayers and that she intercedes for me with her Son.

While I am not a consecrated woman religious, I do know that Mary serves as a model for them as well. Throughout the centuries, nuns and sisters have imitated Our Lady in her prayer, in her obedience to the Father, in her chastity, in her care for others and in her hospitality.  In their consecration to  a life dedicated singularly to the Lord, religious women are a sign to all of us women of what we all hope to strive for in our dedication to Christ. Although not mothers, they too have nurtured and educated children as Mary nurtured and educated Jesus in the ways of His Father.  Mary is also a model of humility, which is not a sign of weakness, but of strength in knowing who we are as women of faith who trust in the Lord and who work to bring the love of God to our families, our children, our students, our neighbors, our community, and to all we meet.

So, today we offer prayers of thanksgiving for the birth of Mary, for her "yes" to be the mother of Jesus, and we gift her with our devotion and honor her with our imitation of her virtues and her love of God.  And today I also offer prayers of thanksgiving for Sr. Mary Alice for her 50 years of dedication to the education and formation of so many priests, deacons and laypeople for ministry in the Church. May she continue in the good work God has called her to.

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