Project Miriam

Many of the talks we’ve been hearing this semester in both our Formation Program and our Women’s Nights have focused around what it means to be a woman of God and how our femininity plays into that. This has naturally brought up some discussions in our community
about vocation, especially for some of our juniors and seniors. Through God’s perfect timing, the Vocations Office in the Austin Diocese offered two day long retreats, one for the men and one for the women, to help people understand what it really means to be called to religious life.

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I went to the retreat for the women, Project Miriam, with Courtney and a few of the women in our Households. We spent the afternoon meeting the various sisters who were there and heard a bit about their communities and way of life. There were about ten different communities represented, and it was beautiful to hear how the Lord had brought them to their vocation to Religious life.

We all went to mass together, spent time in adoration, and heard about Mary’s “yes” at the Annunciation. Before she ever gave her fiat — her yes — Mary gave her ecce — her being. She is
the handmaid of the Lord, and gave herself to Him in her very being before she was ever asked to be His mother at the Annunciation. I was struck by that during adoration and it occurred to me that I want to become the kind of woman who doesn’t just say “Lord, what will you ask from me? Because I’m not sure I’m up to the task…” but rather “Lord, when will you ask me, because I’ve already said yes!”

It was incredible to be able to spend time with the sisters and the women from our Households. I went to brunch with the women the next morning and it was neat to hear how the experience had been for each of them. Most of us are unsure at this point where the Lord is calling us when it comes to vocation, but I saw how He’s been opening their hearts to the possibility of Religious life. Spending time with the sisters had helped many of them break down fears and misconceptions about life as a sister.

A few of us are continuing the openness the Lord has begun by going on a weekend-long retreat for discernment. I pray this will bring peace and clarity for each of us, and an increased
trust in the One who desires to satisfy us.

Are You My Mother?

olow_outsideThe Catholic Student Center here at Texas State is called Our Lady of Wisdom Parish, and is home to a number of different Catholic organizations. Within the umbrella that is Wisdom there is SPO, FOCUS, and various others such as a fraternity, sorority, and Bobcats for Life. Each of these organizations has similar goals as far as leading students closer to Christ, but because our approaches are often different there’s a risk of the community feeling somewhat disjointed. One of our goals for the year is to face this challenge head on and work towards unifying all of these organizations to become a strong Catholic community at Texas State.

A few students from each organization have stepped forward to become Our Lady of Wisdom ambassadors to help bring life back into our inter-organizational relationships. These ambassadors have worked together to create what they call Bobcat Catholic Unity Night. It happens once a week for about two hours and everyone involved at Wisdom is invited and encouraged to attend, regardless of their organizational commitments.

Each week looks a little different, but for the most part the structure has remained the same. The ambassadors lead us in an ice-breaker game to give us the opportunity to get to know each other, and then we hear a talk that is followed by a brief time of discussion and prayer. One of the ambassadors gave a talk on the Eucharist, Fr. David gave a talk on the history of Halloween, and I was invited to give a talk on Mary at the Unity Night a week ago. I was honored to have been given the opportunity to talk about Mary, and a bit overwhelmed at where to even begin!

I had the freedom to talk about anything, as well as the burden of squeezing everything I wanted to say into 20-30 minutes. I went back and re-read portions of my favorite books on Our Lady, and spent a good chunk of time working and reworking the most important points. Over the course of my preparation, I realized how much Mary had been coming up in my life recently. From various, seemingly random conversations with friends to talks at recent retreats it became clear that there was something I was missing about her. There’s a saying I’ve heard that you’re often asked to give the talk you need to hear, and I didn’t understand that fully until I was asked to give this talk. The more I prepared for it, the more I saw how little I actually knew about Our Lady, and how much I had to grow in relationship with her.

If I had been smart, I would have just recorded the talk so I could post it here. But I wasn’t thinking, so you get the spark notes version today.

The majority of my talk focused around who she is as our mother, and more importantly olowwhat that means to us as individuals. I think there’s often some confusion surrounding Our Lady that’s born out of misunderstanding and half-heard truths. It seems strange from an outside perspective that we put so much emphasis on her, and often looks as though we’ve raised her to the level of a divinity. But that’s not the case. We honor Mary for the way God worked through her, but we don’t worship her. Worship is reserved for God alone because He is the only one worthy of it. Worship, in fact, comes from an old English word which literally means “to acknowledge worth” — worth that He alone holds. We don’t believe Mary has the power to save us, because only God can do that. But we honor her because God honored her first. What greater honor could there be than to be asked by God to be His mother? What greater honor is there than to be invited into His plan for salvation — a plan that didn’t need us in order to be fulfilled? The other thing to remember is that God’s glory is never diminished when we admire or honor the things He’s created. It’s like when we admire a beautiful painting or piece of music; we aren’t glorifying the canvas or the guitar but the one who created the art. When we admire Mary, God’s most beautiful creature, we give glory to the one who created her.

There are two specific scripture passages that help us understand her role in our lives, and both come from John’s Gospel. The first is the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-12), which shows us her relationship with Jesus and her care for those around her. She noticed the wine had run out at the wedding and, even though it was a small problem in the grand scheme of things, she cared enough for the couple to bring their need to the Lord. Not only that, but once she had offered Him their request, she stepped back and pointed to Jesus saying “do whatever He tells you.” Because He loves her as His mother, He honored her simple request even though it would launch Him into the public light.

pieta-jasonThe second is the Crucifixion (John 19:26-27), and reminds us how Jesus gave her to each of us to be our mother. He found the strength even as He was in unspeakable pain to say to John “behold your mother.” Through His sacrifice on the cross we became children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ; in this way we share His mother. John stands in for all of us who are disciples of the Lord, and we should hear Jesus’ words from the cross as words to us, “children, behold your mother.”

So what now? What do we do with this, and why does it matter that she’s been given to us as our mother? We follow John’s example and take her into our home. We follow God’s example and entrust ourselves in our weakness to her care, knowing she cares for us and is not afraid to bring our needs to the Lord the way she did for the couple at Cana. We can invite her into our life, into our fears and sufferings and joys. She stands with us in our sorrows at the foot of the cross. When we invite her into our lives, she can know how to pray for us better. That’s what a mother should do, after all: pray for her children and point them always back to the Lord. Mary knows Jesus deeply and knows best how to pray for each and every one of us. And, because He loves her so dearly as His beloved mother, the Lord is ready and willing to answer her requests on our behalf.

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All that to say she is our mother who cares for each of us individually and is waiting for us to ask her to pray for us. We can never honor or love her more than the Lord already does, and she will always point us back to Christ in everything telling us gently, “do whatever He tells you.”

Our Lady of Wisdom, pray for us!