Mary, our mother and teacher
As we end the month Mary, let us reflect and remind ourselves again of the important lessons Our Lady teaches us by her example.
The special dedication of the month of May to the Blessed Virgin Mary has long been a tradition of the Catholic Church, where the faithful engage in more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration. In the midst of prayer and deeper reflection, Mary’s May is the opportune time to look once again on Mary’s “yes”, and what her example teaches us.
From the accounts of several saints and from the various approved Marian apparitions throughout history, we see that the Blessed Virgin is in fact, not only a loving mother and intercessor, but also a great educator for all Christians.
There are many great lessons that Mary teaches us, but there are two aspects in which we, as educators, can draw special reflection – Mary’s role as teacher during her time on earth, and the “school” of her Immaculate Heart.
The teacher’s teacher
Learning about Mary from the accounts of the Gospels, it is natural and beneficial for us to view her as our dear mother and guide. However, the Gospels also certainly tell of Mary’s role as our teacher, such as when she instructed the servants at the wedding at Cana, “do whatever He tells you” (John 1:5).
Education was in fact one of the major responsibilities of Mary, albeit lesser known. This is seen most clearly in her duty of teaching Jesus and bringing Him up in this world according to God’s plans.
Though we do not have more detailed accounts of Jesus’ early life, His nature as both fully God and fully man, who went through normal human growth, certainly makes the case of Mary’s role as teacher of Jesus undeniable.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the duty of parents and educators is in fact described as inseparable, as “parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule” (CCC 2223).
Mary has been blessed with the authority to be a worthy enough educator to Jesus because she was filled with graces from the Holy Spirit. When the angel visited her, the greeting started with the famous, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28).
At the same time, it is important to also note that the graces which Mary has been blessed with certainly required her obedience, as she would not have been a teacher at all if she had not responded to God with her perfect “yes”.
From the accounts of the first visitation, all the way to the foot of the cross, and up to her own assumption, Mary had always declared with her voice or by her actions, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Similarly as educators, do we strive to teach with the authority of the Holy Spirit? Do we allow ourselves to receive the gifts God wants to give us? It is through obedience to God and an openness to the Holy Spirit, that we can be sure we have what it takes to be an educator worthy of the students God brings into our lives.
When we encounter challenging students, broken students, and are put in charge of so many at once that we feel overwhelmed, Mary teaches us that obedience to God’s will and an openness to His Spirit will surely empower us with the gifts and strength we often yearn for.
School of Mary
Besides Jesus, our greatest teacher and the only way through whom we can approach the knowledge of God, and the Holy Spirit, whom brings us toward Jesus, God has truly blessed mankind with the gift of another avenue where we can seek and learn about Him – our Mother Mary.
In an apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope John Paul II described, ““From the divine standpoint, the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of Christ. But among creatures, no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of His mystery better than His mother.”
Right from the beginning when the shepherds visited Jesus in the manger, it was described that Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). A little later on, the Holy Spirit reveals through the prophet Simeon, “and a sword will pierce your soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare” (Luke 2:35).
The school of Mary certainly lies within her Immaculate Heart, where Mary kept and pondered on all the mysteries and miracles of Jesus. When she went through her own emotional crucifixion as she watched Jesus being condemned, her own strength and trust in God truly testified to the value of these lessons she holds in the school of her heart.
When we face difficulty and suffering in our lives, we commonly ask God, “why?” But even though Mary faced the most appropriate situation for such a question at the foot of the cross, where senseless violence was slowly killing her son, she did not ask why. Instead, she simply offered Jesus her loving motherly presence, and continued to trust that this is God’s will.
Mary, as human as we are in every way, shows us that a heart filled with God truly makes any suffering bearable, and she lovingly opens this heart for us to reflect and learn from.
“This school of Mary is all the more effective if we consider that she teaches by obtaining for us in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as she offers us the incomparable example of her own ‘pilgrimage of faith’,” Pope John Paul II wrote in Rosarium Virginis Mariae.
Mary continues to be our mother and teacher today, whose immaculate heart, so full of invaluable knowledge of Jesus, remains open to us to reach out to. Let us take some time, especially within this month, to ponder again on the lessons we can learn from her.