Franciscan Spirit Blog

Let Us Pray: A Canticle to Mary

The May altar, the May procession, Marian hymns—all were integral to my spiritual upbringing. Singing the “Litany of the Blessed Virgin,” as taught by the Sisters of Providence, fascinated me—both the melody and the multitude of honorifics. As a prefect at St. Mary Academy, the all-girls high school I attended, I was doubly bound to honor Mary.

Mary still walks with me. She is a mother with fears, muscles, calluses, furrowed brows, and graying hair. She doesn’t use many words, according to Scripture. I like to think she had more to say. My prayers intuit those messages.

Some biblical commentaries speak of the seven words of Mary. I prefer to think of four events in which she said things I need to hear. She teaches me plenty about acceptance, delight, attention, and trust.

Mary and the Messenger

When Mary and Gabriel met (though I like to think this wasn’t their first encounter) on the annunciation, Mary had one question and one declaration. She wondered how. She said yes. The answer to her puzzlement freed her to say yes despite her engagement to Joseph. But they had to talk about it at some point, didn’t they?

Mary: “This baby is the Son of God.”

Joseph: “I know you will be a great mother, but what will we do? Do we take him to the temple and leave him there? How can we be his teachers and guides when he will have gifts and powers we can’t imagine?”

Mary: “I think we’re expected to act like other parents. We are to love him, teach him, and allow him to grow and change—just as we will. If we don’t know what to do, surely the one who put us in this situation won’t desert us.”

Here’s my takeaway: Once I agree to something, I must not hold back. I am called to move on in faith. And faith means that the God who put me on the path will not let me walk without help, both human and divine. I am also “the servant of the Lord.”

Cradle Your Joy

Mary couldn’t call ahead and book a room. When she got to Elizabeth’s home, it was definitely a surprise. Elizabeth was with child as well, and Mary could feel her own pregnancy advancing.

Elizabeth: “What brought you all this way, Mary?”

Mary: “I heard you were having a baby.”

Elizabeth: “Who told you?”

Mary: “An angel.”

Elizabeth: “That angel also visited us and said, among other things, ‘Joy and gladness will be yours.’”

Yes, babies increase the laundry load, but they also gurgle, smile, roll over, and do other tricks. They make my heart glad. I take delight in many other little things. I rejoice when the grape hyacinths poke their tiny heads up. I rejoice when I get real mail, not addressed to “occupant.” I love to catch up with a neighbor in the grocery store. I take it all to prayer, being thankful for this world with all its colors and surprises.

A little is a lot to delight in!

I’m the oldest of many. My parents once left my sister, Barb, at Aunt Pauline’s when they packed us up to return home. After all, the station wagon was full! When Jesus was 12, he was left behind too. You can’t always corral a tween, even in biblical times. Mary scolds Jesus, say- ing, more or less, “How could you?” And, unlike most 12-year-olds, Jesus never did it again!

Joseph: “Son, you really upset your mom.”

Jesus: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Mary: “Ah, this is what Simeon meant when he said, ‘This child is destined for the fall and rise of many.’ I need to spend more time with this boy. If he can teach the teachers, I must pay closer attention to every word.”

Words are treasures. Divine revelations can happen on Facebook but are more likely (and plausible) at home. What I learn, I can treasure. I can deal with loss. I can ponder mysteries in my heart and unpack the revelations of grace.

‘Do Whatever He Tells You’

Getting the last word at a wedding is a miracle on its own. Mary whispered. Only her adopted son, John, recorded it.

Jesus: “This is not our problem, Mom.”

Mary: “Yes, it is. These are our friends, and I know you can help them out in a pinch. Do something.”

I can also act, not with drama or miracles, but with trust. A divine someone is using the world’s troubles to test me. Jesus will fill my soul with the wine of wisdom, and I’ll know what to do. His mother told him, and he’ll do it! That’s Mary’s last word.

Mary’s Prayer

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.”
(Lk 1:46–50)

Universal Mother

10 thoughts on “Let Us Pray: A Canticle to Mary”

  1. Armando Lugo

    How beautifully Our Lady is represented in the canticle. Great take on conversations between Our Lady and Saint Joseph.

  2. I’m will be think of this every time I say the rosary especially the luminous mysteries which have always inspired awe in me for the special place Mary played in of Jesus’s coming into the world.

  3. Sharon Brothers

    It is so beautiful to see the humanity of Mother Mary and her Son., Jesus. What a wonderful reflection. A reminder of possibilities for us to become intimately involved with Jesus and Mary.

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  6. Mary’s beautiful declaration is filled with a joy that I imagine was very ecstatic for her. After reading these things the old hymn came to mind…
    “My Jesus I love thee, I know Thou Art mine
    For thee all the passions of sin I resign.
    My gracious redeemer, My Savior Art Thou!
    If ever I love thee, my Jesus, ’tis now!”
    I imagined Mary at the foot of the cross with these words in her heart experiencing that profound sorrow as she looked upon her dying son realizing him to be her very own Savior! What a humbling and ecstatic experience that must have been also!

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