Discerning with Mary, the Mother of Jesus

06_CC Sr Tracy

In Genesis, when God specifically promises to redeem humanity by sending the Savior, he speaks of Mary as “the woman” who is Satan’s enemy and whose Son will overcome the devil definitively. When we cultivate a relationship with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, we draw close not just to Mary but to Jesus. As our Mother, Mary wants us to be united to her Son, and she will clear the way of obstacles for us, most especially the devil’s temptations.

Many saints speak eloquently about Mary’s power over Satan and her ability to lead us to Christ. This is an excerpt from one of my favorite prayers to Mary by Blessed James Alberione:

“O Mary, grant that we may listen to, follow and love Jesus Christ the Divine Master! May sin never stain our souls consecrated to you. Immaculate Virgin, crush the head of that insidious demon of discouragement.

Live in our midst, Mary; blessed are they who dwell in your house.”
– Blessed James Alberione

In his beautiful apostolic letter On the Most Holy Rosary, Pope St. John Paul speaks about our entering into the “school” of Mary because “No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit…. Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word” (On the Most Holy Rosary, nos. 10 & 11).

Mary is both a wonderful model for our discernment and a powerful intercessor so that we can receive the light of the Holy Spirit in order to “see” or contemplate Christ’s presence in our lives. Mary is not just the Mother of Jesus, but our Mother, too, and her greatest desire is to lead all of her children to her Son. Praying to Mary regularly is life-changing.

Countless Marian prayers and traditions can help us to grow in our relationship with the Blessed Mother. The Rosary is especially fruitful as a prayer to help us grow in a spirit of discernment because when we contemplate Jesus by praying the Rosary, we do so with Mary, the first and truest disciple of Jesus who most closely sought and lived the will of God. When we pray the Rosary, we meditate with Mary on Jesus’ life: how Jesus lived the will of his Father while on earth. We can also meditate on how Mary recognized and responded to God’s invitations in a spirit of faith and obedience. The subjects for meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary are endless.

The saints are eloquent about how devotion to Mary changes our lives. If you are looking for more resources on growing in your relationship with Mary, here is a short list of new titles that introduce devotion to Mary and the Rosary, and a few of the classic books on Mary that foster devotion to her.


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/