“Mary had a perfect faith…” we often hear, as Catholics. It can make her seem too perfect, hard to imitate, unapproachable. Maybe that is why many of us, and our non-Catholic family and friends, struggle to connect with Mary and allow her to truly be an example of faith.
Fr. Michael Gaitley wrote something in his newest book, “33 Days to Merciful Love“, that changes my understanding of “perfect faith.” I just read it a day or two ago, and the idea has been working its way into my mind and heart ever since. He recalls that St. John Paul II referred to Mary as she “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith,” continually seeking understanding and continually saying “yes” to the Lord’s will.
What a beautiful and fluid idea this is! Fluid, because a pilgrimage is a journey, a moving experience, with spiritual highs and lows, ebbs and flows. Beautiful because I imagine Mary constantly trusting our Lord, and daily renewing her trust, and daily growing in love and understanding. She pondered things in her heart, probably daily. I imagine things being things she may have prayed: “Lord, what do I do with your Son who is already teaching in the temple, giving me anxiety when I lost him?” “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” “Lord, you gave me this child. Help me raise him according to your will.”
The pilgrimage of faith is movement. It is growth. It is experiencing, loving, pondering. It is hard. It demands action, requires sacrifice, invokes awe and wonder. A pilgrimage of faith is more than a journey, because it is an immersion of self –body and soul– into the destination. A journey could be just the route from point A to point B. A pilgrimage is so much more, because every step along the way is filled with purpose.
Mary’s faith was perfect, yes, but still she asked, “how can this be?”, still she frantically sought for her lost son (which I have experienced 3 times, once for each of my mobile sons– I have not lost the baby!), still a sword pierced her heart. Mary’s perfect faith comes in her surrender to the mercy of her Lord, in her trust renewed in the promise every step of the way.
This is what I long to imitate; the continual trust and surrender to my Father’s mercy. So my Monday didn’t go as planned, and my youngest boys keep me up past midnight each night, leaving me exhausted in the morning, but I renew my trust and surrender to the promise of mercy as I wake. For it is mercy which fuels me (by the grace of God I am not a zombie), it is mercy which motivates me (these crabby kids need breakfast, a smile, and a hug to help them greet the day), it is mercy from the Father which is my goal. His mercy is what saves me from myself and sinfulness. So I renew my trust and faith in his promise, and do my best to live as a woman being showered in my Lord’s mercy. Some days I bask in the perfect joy of all the things working smoothly…most days I thank heaven for the small things and in the same breath beg for the strength to do what I must for my family, even when I am at my wits’ end.
And thank goodness for Mary’s example, her daily walk (literally) with our Lord. Without her example, without her watching over me along this pilgrimage, I’d be a bit (a lot) more crazed. Instead, I find hope in following her on my own pilgrimage of faith.
More on Mary, and ways to let her lead us to Christ:
True Devotion and Consecration to Mary
Mary, Mother of God
Redemptoris Mater (On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the Pilgrim Church)
(this post contains affiliate links)