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Catholic Spiritual Direction

Mary sees us

September 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Mary, Mary, Meditations, Prayer

“Just try to imitate the Blessed Virgin,” my old pastor would always counsel me. This was when I was a teenager struggling with all the usual teenager sins. The only thing I could see that Mary and I had in common was the color blue: her mantle, my hair. So his advice, while technically excellent, was entirely unhelpful.

When I became a mother, I thought the imitation would come more naturally. But the opposite happened: The more I tried to imitate what I heard about Mary, the wider the gulf between us became. Imitate someone who was free from original sin, and so had no inclination to be impatient or sarcastic, self-pitying or lazy, lustful or arrogant? And whose Child, while clearly kind of a tricky case, never sinned either? Whose husband was a saint, and whose mission in life was clear as a bell?

And asking someone with four kids under the age of five to imitate a mother of one felt like asking someone who lives in a sod hut to be more like Martha Stewart. Imitate Mary? I might as well have tried to imitate a cirrus cloud, or pattern my life after a soap bubble or an innocent little butterfly. In Mary’s presence, I had to be on my best behavior, so as not to put a smudge on her pretty porcelain robes.

What baffled me was that so many other women clearly found such solace and strength in Mary. I knew that I must be missing something—that this wasn’t her fault, it was mine. I regretfully concluded that I just wasn’t one of those Mary People.

But my thinking has changed. Here’s the key: I was misunderstanding sin—and so, of course, misunderstanding Mary, conceived without sin.

Intellectually, I knew sin is the cause of all pain and suffering in the world; but emotionally, it just felt like sin was life. How could the Immaculate Conception be helpful at all with Real Life? I imagined Mary as a blank slate, a polished, glossy fondant of womanhood. Pretty to look at, but who can get a foothold in such a featureless landscape?

But here’s the thing. Mary was conceived without sin, but that clearly did not mean she didn’t suffer. Think of this: Sin, in a peculiar way, protects us. It makes a comfortable shield or buffer between us and the truth. When I hurt someone, I protect my conscience by telling myself that so-and-so deserved it, that I was tired or overworked, and not much to blame, that it wasn’t such a big deal, that I’ll do better next time, and so on.

If Mary, though, full of grace, saw someone hurting someone else, even in a minor way—she must have seen the full horror of it. Far from being dainty and pristine, detached and removed from the mess and struggle of the world, she must have seen with utter clarity what harm we do to each other, and to ourselves, and how we offend against God. Imagine a Civil War-era mother watching the battlefield from high ground: It’s all very well to be protected yourself, but how dreadful to witness all those wounds.

And then there is the matter of what happened to Mary’s Son. The closest I come to being a decent human being is when one of my children is hurt. That is when I’m most able to put aside my own needs and desires, and just do what I’m here to do: to help, to make it better, to work like a furious machine to right the wrong. This is because I love my children. I can see them better, I know them more than anyone else does—and because of what I know, I have the strength to fight for them.

So imagine Mary, who was the only one who could see her Child for who he really was—whose life was linked to His. Imagine not only seeing your child suffer, but knowing that he was the only truly innocent one in the world. A sword of sorrow is putting it mildly. In her immaculate state, she had no selfishness to work through, no “compassion fatigue”—only sheer, unmixed anguish at seeing the truth of the most outrageous injustice in the universe. Mary alone saw not only her Son’s suffering, but saw clearly how the whole world was wounding itself as it tortured and killed this innocent one. She was not shielded by sin; she saw.

Mary is not, in her immaculate state, detached from us. On the contrary, she sees us—she sees more than anyone else sees. This is why she loves us: not because she is nice enough to blink politely and pretend not to notice our human grotesqueries—but because she sees it all, the good and the bad. She knows us better than anyone else, and she loves us because of what she knows, not despite it. When we cry to her, she doesn’t gather up her mantle to keep it free of our filth—she scoops us up like any mother would, and holds us tight until we feel strong enough to stand on our own again.

And so this is how I pray to Mary: Help me see my children clearly. Help me to see as Mary sees. Sin blinds and divides us; but grace reveals, and grace gives us strength.

by Simcha Fisher: To read more from Simcha go to www.NCRegister.com

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Catholic Spiritual Direction, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and author of the award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • http://www.marythedefender.wordpress.com MariaGo

    Wow! I was amazed by this reflection on Mama Mary’s life!
    Having been born on her birthday and hence sharing her name, I often felt that I should pray to her and have a devotion to her more. And lately, I have talked to her more often. I never fully realized just how difficult her life was and how wonderful a mother she is!
    Thank you for this article!
    Thank you Mama Mary for always being there for me and for interceding for me. Thank you also for allowing me to share your birthday.

  • Mash111

    What a unique perspective! Thank you!!

  • ThirstforTruth

    Simcha Fisher has articulated for many women in today’s busy and often
    cacaphonous world the difficulty of relating in a meaningful way to the Mother of God. From His Holy Cross, Christ gave her to each one of us, as well as each one of us to her…and why?  Simcha has given me a whole new and very helpful answer to that question…one that brings me not only closer in my relationship with Mary …but to her Son. God’s blessings be upon you and your family Simcha!

  • Mmcmiami

    Thank for such a beautiful meditation.  It’s wonderful to see that when we really embrace Our Lady, we can only grow spiritually and then of course grow closer to Jesus.  Many blessings and thank you for sharing such a realistic perspective.  YSIC.

  • atam

    Loved it!

  • WellSpring04

    Thanks for the honesty Simcha! I’ve always thought my relationship with Mary was tainted by my relationship with my own mother, who never really got it “right” with me, since she doesn’t like strong feelings and is threatened by emotional honesty. She was great for a few of my siblings, but as I was numero uno she was entirely too preoccupied with making me “right” (ie like her) to train me to use these Godgiven strong emotions of mine in a Godgiven way.
    Lately, I am picturing myself sitting at Mary’s kitchen table, cups of tea before us, no pressure, just as she must have done for women in her town, and later in her Church. Women have this gift for one another in being able to create a safe well of understanding and grace that is very healing.
    I AM a good friend, and that quality of Mary is very attractive to me. I can pour out my heart, or I can sit quietly, or I can do a bit of both. I have time, and so does she. Lately Christ Jesus has been showing up too, comfortably sitting with His own cup of tea. It’s a place for friends, I hope giving Christ the solace  He found in the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. No issues, no pressure, no pretense.
    JUst friends.
    Imagine being the friend of Mary and Jesus!
    Little ole me…

  • Bon

    I loved this…..thanks for putting words to my thoughts so much better than I could….thanks.

  • Avila Power

    What I love about Our Blessed Mother is her willingness to want to share her Beloved Son with us all. She cares so much about us she has appeared to the world in so many places and  begging us to turn away from sin and just love her Divine Son. She begs us to grow closer to Him.She has pure undivided love for His children. What a beautiful Mother, let us appreciate her more and more in our lives. She is so connected to us and cares about what will happen to the world. We are indeed greatly blessed and thank you Blessed Mother for your love for us.

  • Mg Logan

    What a unique role Mary had in this life. I am inspired to “look through the eyes of Mary”, which will require all types of prayer and concentration. I thank you for this post. I am always looking for ways to come closer to Mary so as to understand my own nature. Now that I “see” differently, I am hoping to grow in holiness and have a closer walk with Christ.

  • Erobleto5

    Thank you. This article is very helpful to me. What a blessing!

  • Kahunacic

    Absolutely beautiful!  Thanks for sharing these wonderful thoughts about our Blessed Mother Mary!

  • Yohann P.

    Thanks Simcha for such wonderful insights.. This article just helped me deepen  my love and devotion towards our blessed mother..
    God Bless you.
    Yohann

  • Guest

    This is a superb Post, Simcha Fisher.  Thank you for spelling out just how vital it is to venerate our Holy Mother Mary who understands each one of us so well and is devoted to us all.

  • MusherMaggie

    Just found this going through a backlogue of e-mail. Astounding!

  • jack g.

    I have a deep devotion to Mary, it started when I was a child, and even when I was away from Church for 20 years, I still had it deep within me, holding on to her mantle in my deepest hell. I believe She and my morher’s Rosaries & fasting saved me, leading to my conversion.

  • jack g.

    Oh yes, She is watching us all the time, with love and unimaginable compassion. My mother was converted when she had her
    4th child, I was 3rd. Like most Catholics in Poland then, she had a devotion to Our Lady. That I believe saved my life, when at
    2 years old, I fell from 2nd floor balcony down on a concrete floor. I wasn’t moving, she knelt at the painting of the image of Our
    lady of Perpetual Help and prayed. My aunt brought me home and I started to move. I was in coma for short period and there was
    no visible injuries. My wife says now that the injuries are invisible. Well, we all are injured in our hearts, and she helps us to get
    cleaned up and takes us to Her Divine Son Jesus, our Doctor, to be healed.
    This is my conversion experience. Soon after initial shock of the baptism in Holy Ghost, I was moved to pray and ask Jesus for
    a grace of great devotion to His Mother. It didn’t take long, a few weeks later I started a 33 day consecration to Jesus through Mary.
    Since then I feel Our Lady’s presence, especially when I pray the Rosary of the 7 Sorrows every Tuesday and Friday. And on some
    other occasions She took me to the be with Her at the foot of The Cross. I could actually feel the pain, such an immense and overwhelming
    pain of heart, it almost caused me to faint. It was an a few occasions, but for only very short time where I would cry and weep with Her.
    I couldn’t bear more. After reading some of The Mystical City of God, by Mary of Agreda available at http://www.tanbooks.com I realized how
    Our Lady and Mother is Full of Grace. I should say I just began to realize. It is not possible to comprehend the greatness of Our Lady and Her
    role in the Redemption of Human Kind. And She is so very personal with all of Her children lost like Jesus in Jerusalem. She always tries to
    bring us closer to Him, no matter how deep in sin we are.
    She looks after us and constantly intercedes for us. I gave my 4 children to Her care and consecrated the whole family, since then I do not worry so
    much for I know that no matter what happens, She will be there to care when I have no power. Life is much easier when you realize the
    Power of the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and there is no room in the world’s libraries to hold the volumes of Mary. Only in Heaven we will be
    with the Grace of God be able to comprehend a little more of the mystery. For now we can only ask Mary to intercede for us for Her Divine Son
    Jesus will not refuse Her anything She asks.