Since October is the month of the rosary, it may be helpful to reflect on what this powerful prayer means for us and our families. How can the rosary help us grow in our relationship with our Blessed Mother? How can devotion to Mary help form students in and out of the classroom? Three themes come to mind: meditation, service and love.
St. John Paul II said of Mary’s constant meditation of the Word made flesh: “The meditation of Mary constitutes the prime model of the prayer of the Rosary. It is the prayer of those who hold the angel’s greeting to Mary dear. Persons who recite the Rosary take up Mary’s meditation in their thoughts and hearts and as they recite the prayer they wonder “what his greeting meant””. Mary’s meditation is a humble search for the meaning of God’s word, of God’s reality, of the mystery of God’s presence. In order to do this Mary was constantly “listening” in an active way to every event that God was “saying” through the facts of her history. After the visit of the shepherds in Bethlehem, Mary “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). The verb used here for “pondered” literally means “to place together” or “to confront”. There are thus two realities in front of Mary that are difficult – or seemingly impossible – to reconcile: the abject precariousness of Jesus’ birth and the excelling greatness of the words of the angels which the shepherds have conveyed.
After having found Jesus in the Temple, Luke writes “His mother stored up all these things in heart” (Lk 2:51). The heart of Mary is the “treasury” of the powerful acts of God, her “hard drive” in which was stored in her memory the interventions that God had done for her. And not only for her alone but for all of the human race.
When the angel Gabriel brought Mary the news that she would miraculously be a mother – without the aid of a man – not only of a son but of the Messiah (the ‘Son of God’), Mary realized that her life would no longer be her own; in fact, she knew – as Joseph would soon realize (Mt 1:19) – that her own life would be in danger. But rather than focus on these frightening and traumatic possibilities, Mary was convinced of one thing: that her mission, her vocation came from God. By opening herself and abandoning herself to God’s will, as Simeon prophesied, Mary knew that “a sword will pierce your own soul” (Lk 2:35a). But this “piercing” had a purpose, as Simeon continued: “so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare” (Lk 2:35b). Before pronouncing these troubling words, however, Simeon first prophesied the Resurrection when he said that “[this child] is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel” (Lk 2:34). The word used here for “rising” is that used for “resurrection”. Although Mary couldn’t know what this would mean, she trusted that it was something wonderful. Why? Because it came from God! Jesus would say “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (Jn 10:27).
Mary is the truest and most humble “sheep” of Christ: she followed the voice of God through her trust even though she did not understand the what this voice was saying. As children, we first came in contact with the voice of our parents before we were ever able to understand what they were saying. With God, before we ever can understand the meaning of our vocation in life, like Mary we must first trust the voice of God. This Voice “spoke” to Mary through the events of her history. She said: “God is speaking here; I will listen!” not “I understand what God is saying; therefore, I will do it”. Mary’s complete trust in God is what makes it possible for Mary to follow Christ (Jn 10:27).
To instill and foster this trust in God is the prime goal of Catholic Education.
Shakespeare wrote “love is not love which alters when it alteration finds” (Sonnet 116: 2-3). This true and unfailing love is to be found in Mary. She found many “alterations” from her own plan for her life and Jesus’ life and found “alterations” everywhere she looked at the foot of the Cross: In the very same city where Jesus was acclaimed as king only one week ago, Jesus was being crucified. All of his apostles – except John – had fled for fear. But Mary stood near the cross of Jesus (Jn 19:25). As Jesus received his precious wounds by which “we are healed” (Is 53:5) – “like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers” (Is 53:7) – Mary’s soul was pierced by the “sword” (Lk 2:35). Mary’s love was a co-suffering with her Beloved, with Christ. Like the Passion of Christ, Mary’s Passion was also life-giving: just as she became the Mother of Christ at Bethlehem, she now becomes the Mother of the Church at the foot of the Cross (Jun 19:26).
This love is the source from which the classrooms of the Blessed Virgin Mary School draws its inspiration. Mary is not an image, an ideal, an example: she is a living person, she is our Queen, she is the spiritual Mother of all students and teachers at our school. She is our true teacher. And she was able to be a teacher because she was a “sheep”, a humble child before God. Through her meditation, service and love, she is the model of what it means to be a part of the Blessed Virgin Mary School. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!
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