By Marge Fenelon
During Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s General Audience on Wednesday, March 14, 2012, he spoke about praying with Mary. He pointed out times in Mary’s life that were pivotal to salvation history and in which she demonstrated particular aspects of prayer.
I recently read the Pope Emeritus’ words and was inspired to take them a step further and to explore ways in which his insights into the Blessed Mother’s prayer life could be incorporated on a practical level into my crazy life. This being the month of May – Mary’s Month, according to Catholic custom – I want to use them as method and motivation for making this month especially meaningful. Perhaps you will, too.
“The Mother of Jesus was placed by the Lord at the decisive moments of salvation history and has always been able to respond with full availability, the result of a deep relationship with God developed in assiduous and intense prayer,” Benedict said.
The idea of forming an assiduous and intense prayer life like that of Mary’s can be a daunting task, especially when our days often flit past in a harried, hectic blur. How can we fit “assiduous and intense” into projects, deadlines, communications, chores, and errands? Here are some possibilities for praying with Mary and to “respond with full availability” to God’s activity in our lives.
In the Nativity and Pentecost, Mary demonstrates for us praying in recollection. “With Mary, the earthly life of Jesus begins and with Mary the first steps of the Church began, and at both moments the climate is one of listening to God in recollection,” Benedict said.
We could foster a climate of recollection in our own lives by making good use of our morning coffee (or tea) time. Instead of complacently letting the day creep up on you as you struggle for wakefulness, why not have your elixir of wakefulness with Mary? Invite her to join you for a few minutes – even 5 or 10 is better than none – as you think about yesterday and the day ahead.
- What happened yesterday?
- How did it affect me?
- How did I respond to the people and happenings around me?
- What can I do better today?
During Jesus’ public ministry and at the foot of the Cross we witness Mary in silent prayer. “Mary followed her Son’s journey throughout his public ministry and to the foot of the cross with discretion, and now continues to follow the Church’s path with a silent prayer,” the Pope said.
We could use part of our morning drive time – or chore time if we work at home – simply being silent. We can think about how our Lord loves us – so much that he gave his life for us!
At the Annunciation, Mary exemplifies attentiveness to God’s Word. “At the Annunciation, in Nazareth, Mary received the Angel of God, she was attentive to his words, received and responded to his divine plan, expressing her complete openness: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word’(Lk 1.38),” the Emeritus Holy Father said.
Although God is always speaking to us through the persons and events in our lives, we find his Word most obviously in Scripture. Why not use our break time to take in the Word of God and the message he has for us through it? We could open the Bible to a random page, read a few lines and let them sink in. Most folks have access to the Internet during the day.
If you don’t have your Bible handy, chose a selection from the USCCB’s online version of the New American Bible. If neither of those an option, we’ve got ten fingers, and conveniently, there are ten Hail Mary’s in each decade of the Rosary. The Rosary is Scripture-based and makes a perfect take-anywhere contemplation of the scenes from Jesus’ and Mary’s lives.
With her Magnificat at her visit to Elizabeth (Lk 1:46-55), Mary shows us how to sincerely and humbly give thanks to God for his goodness and mercy. “Praise, thanksgiving, joy in the canticle of the Magnificat, Mary does not just look at what God has done in her, but also to what he did and always does in history,” said Benedict.
Every day holds a built-in opportunity for thanksgiving. As we move from the day into the evening, we have a natural shift from one type of activity to another. How about using that transition time from day to evening to give thanks to God for all that’s transpired during the day – both good and bad?
Throughout Mary’s entire life journey, she modeled a persistent atmosphere of meditation. “The stages of the journey of Mary, from the house of Nazareth to Jerusalem, through the cross where her Son entrusts her to the apostle John, these stages of the journey of Mary are marked by the ability to maintain a persistent atmosphere of meditation, meditation on each event in the silence of her heart before God (cf. Lk 2.19 to 51),” the Holy Father said.
Tired though we may be, we’ll sleep much better if we make some time to draw our hearts away from the world and toward God. Perhaps we could choose one event from the Blessed Mother’s life and spend 15 minutes meditating on it. Sure it’s 15 fewer minutes of sleep, but it’ll be 15 minutes well-spent.
We can ask ourselves:
- What happened to Mary in that event?
- How did she respond?
- What does that tell me about her?
- How can I become more like her?
By following Mary through her life, we can gain much wisdom for our own, particularly regarding prayer. Pope Benedict’s description of Mary’s “persistent atmosphere of meditation” is beautifully said. It was persistent, not intermittent. With Mary, and through Mary’s intercession, we can learn to pray as she did – with recollection, silence, attentiveness to God’s Word, thanksgiving and in a persistent state of meditation that will allow us to have an ever-deepening relationship with God.
What that, we can make this the most meaningful May ever!
Marge Fenelon is a Catholic author, blogger, speaker, and journalist whose writing has appeared in dozens of media outlets including National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service/Faith Alive. She blogs regularly at National Catholic Register and is a columnist for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. Marge is the author of several books on Marian devotion and Catholic family life, including her newest work My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena (Ave Maria Press, 2019). Other books include 10 Promises of Jesus: Stories and Scripture Reflections about Suffering and Joy (Twenty Third Publications, 2018) and Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace (Servant Books, 2017). She is a regular contributor on national Catholic radio programs and has also appeared on Catholic television.