Loving like Mary
In summertime sorrow or celebration, Our Lady shows us the way
For our family, summer is a time of anniversaries both sad and joyful. We grieve the death of parents. We celebrate the births of grandchildren. We rejoice as we recall our wedding day and the wedding day of our son and daughter-in-law.
All of the above events changed our lives. But for me, Aug. 19, 2006, is the day that brought about the most profound and unexpected change. On that day my husband finally accepted his vocation to become a deacon for Christ and his Church. God had been chasing Larry for a long time before he finally said yes to the Lord and entered deacon formation.
I had a profound moment of doubt the night before the ordination. I was afraid of what would happen to our life together once Larry became a member of the clergy. If I could have stopped it, I would have. That is, until God’s grace intervened. Larry and I can be quite stubborn.
Most of us at one time or another have resisted God. We resist because we don’t want to change — we don’t want to go through the difficult process of conversion. It is as if we say to God, “Hey, life is good; don’t mess it up.” The first thing I always tell those who begin the Right of Christian Initiation for Adults is that if they decide to enter the Church, they will not become converts. Every Catholic — every Christian — is called to a life of holiness. But we struggle to avoid sin — and too often we loose the battle. The Christian’s journey to the heavenly kingdom involves a lifetime of converting so that we can become transformed by the love of Jesus Christ.
Converting is the way that we give our whole selves to the Lord and put our trust in him. It necessitates dying to our egos and to the temptations of the world. This is what St. Paul means in his Letter to the Romans, which states: “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (14:7-9). But if we die to ourselves so that we can live in Christ, we can be transformed into holy people.
In August the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is Mary who teaches us how to die to ourselves and say yes to God: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Pope Benedict XVI, in his homily on the solemnity in 2005, said that the “feast of the Assumption is a day of joy. God has won. Love has won. It has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that his strength is goodness and love.”
Mary completely gave herself over to the Word made flesh, because she trusted and loved with her whole being. She resisted sin and doubt. That is what we are all called to do every second of every day. But it is a seemingly impossible mission.
But Jesus gave us his mother to become our mother. We can turn to her for her help and intercession. Her example can help us progress in holiness. She shows us that with God’s grace it can be done. We can fight the good fight and win. I once heard Bishop Robert Barron say that Mary is not the timid person that some people consider her to be. Mary is a warrior. She fought the battle and won her crown of glory. That is the goal for all human beings.
In reality, all of the anniversaries that our family remembers during the summer months — the passing of my parents, the births of my grandchildren, the marriages, and the ordination of my husband — all involve a type of dying to self. My parents died to this world and into a new life of joy (hopefully). The births of children, entering marriage and ordination all involve dying to self and living a life of sacrificial love — a love exemplified by Mary herself.
SUSAN KEHOE is co-director of RCIA at Christ the King Parish in Des Moines, Iowa, along with her husband, Deacon Larry Kehoe. She writes at adeaconswife.com.