Mary as Model of #Discernment, Vocation & Mission

The devotion to Mary, Queen of the Apostles, is one of the oldest devotions to Mary in the Church. One of our sisters recently let me know about a youtube video of the song, Queen of Apostles, composed and sung by Nancy Krebs, which beautifully offers reflections and prayers about two key events in Mary’s life associated with this particular title of Mary.

A key in discerning and living our vocation is devotion to Mary. Devotion to Mary as our Queen of Apostles is more than asking Mary to help us discover and carry out the mission God has entrusted to us. It also means entrusting ourselves and our spiritual journey to her. It means imitating Mary in how she shared her Son with the world, taking on her attitudes of humility, of receptivity to God (especially her docility to the Holy Spirit),  her obedience to God’s Word, and her union with her Son in his mission. If we entrust every effort that we make and everyone whom we seek to serve to Mary’s motherly care, all our efforts will be blessed.

Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve, on her blog Thomas for Today, posted an introductory reflection on this ancient devotion: Mary and the Holy Spirit.

#Discerning in Every Day Life: We are in God’s hands as he shapes us

Photo: Sr. Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP. © Daughters of St. Paul

Photo: Sr. Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP. © Daughters of St. Paul

Then the word of the Lord came to me:
“O house of Israel,
can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the Lord.
Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

I love this morning’s reading from Jeremiah 18:1-6. It fits so well with the themes of my prayer this week: creativity, being open to the Lord working in me and through me, and allowing the Lord to take the lead in all the aspects of my life: spiritually,  in my relationships, in my efforts to communicate, in the apostolate of sharing the Word.

As the fruit of my recent annual retreat, I’ve been praying for the grace to live in the present moment. It’s so easy for me to get lost in my plans and to forget that it’s God’s plan that I want to be living fully. It’s not really possible for me to discern God’s will, however, if I am not living in the present moment, taking one day, one hour, one minute at a time. Because God speaks to us and works in us in the present moment.

Our Blessed Mother Mary was an expert in living in the present moment. While I was in Rome for the Apostolic Mysticism Seminar, several of the speakers–all Pauline priests–spoke of how Mary was completely docile to the work of the Holy Spirit. We know this simply by her response at the Annunciation.

The conclusion of my every meditation this week has been prayer to Mary, specifically asking her for the grace of this openness and availability to God, not just in the big occasions of my life, but at every moment. So I pray to her with my favorite title, calling on her as my Mother and Queen, the Queen of every apostle, to teach me how to be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and to be receptive to his nudges, his whispers, his inner direction.

Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!

Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!

A final note: Summer has become a bit of a chaotic time for me to fit in regular posts. Responses to the last couple of questions about vocational discernment are almost lined up and ready to post. I also have been reflecting/praying/living some profound moments of discernment in every day life, which I hope to share with you soon. Thank you for your patience with me, as my posting schedule has become a bit irregular.

Mary, Model Discerner

As mentioned earlier, when we discern we pay special attention to where we are at the present moment. We don’t begin our discernment from where we’d like to be, or from unrealistic expectations, but from where we are right now.

Because who we are and where we are has been shaped by the past, we also prayed with our past—with significant moments in our lives that have shaped us as persons, and with significant moments of grace in our lives. We may need to continue to pray about significant moments in our lives, but as we go forward in our discernment, it is time to bring all of who we are, here and now—the present—to prayer. In the past two months, we been reflecting on cultivating a listening attitude in our daily life, listening intently intently to God speaking to us through:

  • our prayer
  • our deep desires
  • our relationships
  • our conversations with others
  • our current situation
  • the Church
  • the needs of the world.

But we face any number of obstacles in this deeper listening. In the next few posts, we’ll look at some of those obstacles that can “stump” us or detour us on our discernment journey, and how we can respond to or overcome these obstacles.

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898.

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898.

Our first response in facing any obstacle on our discernment journey (or our spiritual journey) is to entrust our spiritual lives and any special intentions to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This is especially true for our discernment. Mary is the disciple who most faithfully listened to and responded to God’s invitations in her life, and she wants to accompany us as we seek to do the same.  The Founder of the Daughters of Saint Paul, Blessed James Alberione, used to say, “Mary is the way to go to Jesus, the easiest way.” Mary wants to draw us closer to her Son, so we can ask her in a very particular way to accompany us throughout the rest of our discernment, and ultimately, the rest of our lives as we seek to live God’s call in fidelity as she did.

Suggestion for Prayer

The Angelus is a beautiful and rich prayer that is so helpful for discerners, as it helps us to recall the moment when Mary received and responded with her generous “yes” to God’s call. Traditionally, the Angelus is prayed three times a day—morning, noon, and evening. Make time today to pray the Angelus at least once today. (If you aren’t familiar with this beautiful prayer, you can pray it with this lovely music version:

You can also find the Angelus in almost any Catholic prayer book. Once you have been praying the Angelus for a while, you may enjoy meditating on a beautiful work of art depicting the Annunciation while you are praying: http://calltoprayer.blogspot.com/

Mary at the Annunciation: Model of Discernment

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1897

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1897

Mary, God’s Mother and mine,
you joyfully and fully responded to God’s call in your life.
Help me to respond to God’s plan for me with all my being,
as you did.
                                                                                                               – prayer taken from Discern It! app 

Happy Feast of the Annunciation! I was so deeply into the spirit of Lent and preparing for Holy Week that it was a bit of a shock this morning to pray the Gloria at Mass this morning…but how fitting to pray this canticle of praise on the feast of the Incarnation, the feast of Mary’s “yes” to becoming the Mother of God!

This is one of my favorite images of the Annunciation because it seems to capture Mary at a very ordinary, prosaic moment in her life, while at the same time emphasizing the mystery of the announcement–the angel Gabriel is brilliant but we cannot even distinguish the shape of his figure. At some point, I hope to offer here a guided meditation on discernment in the light of Luke 1:26-38 with this painting of the Annunciation. But for today as I seek to live in a spirit of discernment, I will carry in my heart Mary’s attentive gaze, her hands clasped in prayer, and her head tilted in wonder as she begins to grasp the radiance of God’s love for her and for all humanity.