I’ve always had a special connection to Mary. Recently I’ve been struggling to find ways to draw closer to Christ. I should have known all I needed to do was turn to my girl Mary and she would show me how to love Christ more fully.
This is the first Advent that I’ve done the St. Andrew Christmas Novena. Honestly, it was one of those things on the long list of ways to have a deeper Advent that I was just never very interested in. But with our bedtime prayer routine, novenas work very well in our prayer schedule so I figured, why not!
My work had a staff Advent retreat last week that was focused on prayer – what is prayer, why do we pray, how can we deepen our prayer life. As a result, I’ve been pondering more seriously how I can improve my prayer life and my personal relationship with Christ. Last night as I was repeating the Christmas Novena 15 times, my mind kept falling back to Mary.
One thing I’ve struggled with in my prayer practice is having it feel genuine. During a small group discussion at our retreat, I tried to explain how when I get to the “Hey Jesus, it’s me, let’s chat” part of prayer, I just feel so fake. My mind quickly drifts away from chatting with God and moves toward the pile of clean laundry I need to put away or the article that’s due at work tomorrow or my meal plan for the week. I don’t feel excited to pray, I don’t feel relieved or connected or really anything after.
But last night I found myself reflecting on something one of our speakers said. (I’m paraphrasing but imagine it was poignant.) When we pray fully, when we pray deeply, we empty ourselves out to Christ completely. If we are only giving part of ourselves over to Christ then we can’t connect with Him fully. I think this may be where the source of my disconnect may lie.
As I was repeating “Hail and Blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary…” I kept reflecting back to the idea of completely emptying myself out to Christ. Instead of going through my laundry list of things I’m thankful for, things I need help with, people I want to pray for, do I empty myself out to him?
And then I thought, well maybe I can baby-step my way there. Maybe I can work through His Most Holy Mother. Maybe I can empty myself out to her, woman to woman, mother to mother, and through that practice I can become comfortable doing the same to her Son.
Like your best girlfriend, Mary is there for us, to support us, guide us, be a shoulder to lean on, an ear who responds with love and compassion instead of judgment. She knows intimately the wants and needs of a mother’s heart. And she knows intimately the heart of her Son. Through her intercession we can draw closer to Jesus and thus form an intimate relationship with Christ.
3 Ways to draw nearer to God through Mary
Mediate on her fiat and complete faith.
Mary’s fiat or “let it be”, her “yes” found in Luke 1:38 is perhaps one of the most referred to example she gives us for how we are to accept the will of God in our lives.
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
And for good reason. Her fiat shows us simply, concisely, we are to desire always to say yes to God’s will. That is the fastest, surest way to Heaven and eternity with Him. It’s that simple. Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. says “When we say through Mary, to Jesus, we mean that: Through Mary’s voluntary consent we have received Jesus; Through Mary’s example we are better able to imitate Jesus; Through Mary’s intercession we obtain graces from Jesus.”
In addition to her fiat, though, Mary gives us several examples of complete and total faith in God through Scripture. In Luke 1:45, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and praises Mary, saying, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” She had no proof that what the angel Gabriel had said to her would come to fruition. But she believed it. Imagine being a teenage girl, impoverished, engaged, feeling like you are no one special, and to be chosen to carry the Christ-child. And yet after a simple “how can it be” she is game on and gives her consent. That’s crazy.
When you come up against a seemingly impossible task or situation, think back to Mary’s fiat and remember God’s will isn’t always easy but it is always worth it.
At the Wedding Feast at Cana, Mary’s faith in Christ, and her mentoring to others to do the same, “Do whatever He tells you,” leads to Jesus’ first miracle of public ministry. She didn’t micromanage. She didn’t fight back and tell him, “I am your mother and I said more wine.” She simply instructs the servants to do whatever he wants. This is a beautiful image of submission, humility and faith.
Begin a regular rosary practice.
Devotion to the power of the rosary has been touted by saints and popes for generations. If you take the time to pray a daily, or even weekly rosary, you’ll begin to more frequently mediate on the mysteries of the faith, and in doing so, you will draw closer to Christ through His Holy Mother, Mary.
One of my favorite books is the Seven Words of Jesus and Mary by Ven. Fulton Sheen*. He has a lot to say about praying to Mary and the rosary but these two passages hit to the heart of it.
“If you have never before prayed to Mary, do so now. Can you not see that if Christ himself willed to be physically formed in her for nine months and then be spiritually formed by her for thirty years, it is to her that we must go to learn how to have Christ formed in us? Only she who raised Christ can raise a Christian.” and “Do you think that in honoring Our Lady with the rosary you are neglecting Our Lord. Did you ever know anyone who ignored you by being kind to your mother? If Our Lord said to you, ‘Behold thy Mother,’ it well behooves us to respect her whom Our Lord chose above all the creatures of earth.”
Marian consecration or meditation.
Marian consecrations are, in a nutshell, a dedication of ones self to the mother of Christ. By far the most popular one I’ve come across is 33 Days to Morning Glory by Michael Gaitley*. I started this last year and got about three days in before I got swamped at home and work and I just wasn’t able to fit in the devotional time I wanted. I plan to pick this back up during Lent this year. True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort* is one that the above is based on, and I’ve also heard great things about the Divine Mercy-focused Gaitley devotional, 33 Days to Merciful Love*. St. John Paul II is well-known for having a devotion to Mary and he was a big fan of St. Louis de Montfort. In Crossing the Threshold of Hope*, he said, “Thanks to St. Louis de Montfot, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.”
Saint Quotes on devotion to Mary:
- “If you seek Mary, you will find Jesus. And you will learn a bit more about what is in the heart of a God who humbles himself, discarding all manifestations of his power and majesty to take the form of a servant.”
-St. Josemaria Escriva
- “We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son.”
-Saint Louis Marie de Montfort
- “In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.”
-Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Father and Doctor of the Church
- “If you ever feel distressed during your day — call upon our Lady — just say this simple prayer: ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.’ I must admit — this prayer has never failed me.”
-St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata (Calcutta)
- Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence.
-Saint Francis de Sales
How do you honor Mary as the Mother of Christ? Do you seek her intercession? Spend some time meditating on what it means to be the Mother of Christ. Imagine her life; seek some clarity on how her life can draw you closer to Christ.