Saint Ignatius High School

Mother Knows Best

As we approach the 2024 year, Jim Brennan reminds us of the grace and love of our Mother Mary. Let us listen and learn from her motherly wisdom and follow God's plans as we embark into the new season of opportunity.

Mother Knows Best

The winter holidays–particularly Christmas and New Year’s Day–have long been associated with family. Millions of us will travel throughout the country to be with our loved ones or, failing to do that, will call or FaceTime those about whom we care most. Particularly, our mothers.

It’s no different in the Catholic Church.

New Year’s Day coincides with a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church: the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. In other words, as we usher in the new year, we are reminded to spend a little time with our mother, Mary.*

The day celebrates a couple of things in addition to the praise we offer the Father through the Son. As always with titles of Our Lady, what the Church says about her is as much a statement about the nature and mission of Jesus as it is about her. In this case, we remember the pronouncement of 5th century bishops of the Church who, exercising their unique charism as teachers, affirmed Mary as the Theotokos, the “bearer of God.” This in response to the heretical bishop Nestorius, who believed such a title suggested that Mary somehow created the Son God in her womb.

The title, consistently used by the Eastern Church, recognizes that when Mary opened herself to the Holy Spirit, she received the eternal Logos, the second Person of the Trinity, and gave Him a human nature on top of His divine one. Thus Jesus, unlike anyone else in history, is one divine Person in two natures–human and divine.  

We also celebrate Mary for her unique role in salvation history. She–and she alone–was called in freedom to give birth to the Son of God. There was no “Plan B,” which when one thinks about it, placed a pretty heavy burden on a young woman scholars conclude was probably 13-14 years old when approached by the angel, Gabriel, with this request. Sin entered the world through human activity; salvation would require the same. 

Announcing she was the “handmaid” (doule, “slave”) of the Lord, Mary said “yes” to His request and in doing so, quite literally changed the world. His will was her will. Uncertain of everything except God’s love and care, she responded to her vocation: to bring God physically into the world. And having had the most intimate, profound encounter with God one could imagine, she “traveled in haste” to the “hill country” to serve her kinswoman Elizabeth who was in need (Lk.1:39).  

As always, Mary serves as a model of Christian life. The Holy Spirit Who overshadowed the Blessed Mother in Nazareth is the same Spirit Who overshadowed us in our baptisms and who gave us the fullness of His gifts in Confirmation. The Jesus Whom she carried in her womb is the same Jesus we carry with us in our bodies after Communion. The Word spoken to her in Nazareth, is the same Word spoken to us through Scripture and the teachings of the Church.   And the mission she was given–to bring Christ into the world–is the same mission given to us.

As Christians then, in effect we all–women and men–share in the motherhood of Mary. 

How we share in this role, how we bring Jesus into the world, will vary from person to person, but it starts the way it started for Mary: by being attentive to the promptings of God and our willingness to make His will ours, of being douloi of the Lord. It requires us to model the attentive prayerfulness, persistent faith, and unwavering courage which Mary modeled for us.  Especially since, like Mary in her “unconventional pregnancy,” we will run the risk of being subjected to ridicule and scorn for trying to make God present to a world that so desperately needs Him.

Former school president, Fr. Robert Welsh–famous for his deep devotion to Mary–shared his vision of what was central to a Saint Ignatius education by saying that its purpose was to “provide a young man with the tools to answer the question ‘What does God want from me?’”  It is a vision literally carved in stone, and it is a vision which should guide all of us connected with our school.

Thankfully, we have Our Blessed Mother to show us the way.

There are no accidents in God’s Providence: there is a philosophical connection between the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, and New Year’s Day.  

In the United States at least, New Year’s Day is associated with sore heads and bowl games.  But it is also associated with making resolutions, aspirations to do and be better. As we begin this new year–one, as all new years are, pregnant with opportunity and possibility–we would do well to heed some motherly advice as we resolve to be the women and men we want to be.  Speaking to the head waiter as she introduced him to Jesus at the wedding at Cana, the Mother of God–in her last recorded words in Scripture–points him (and us) to her Son saying:

“Do whatever He tells you.”

A.M.D.G. / B.V.M.H.

* According to the bishops of the United States, with the exception of Christmas and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, if a holy day of obligation falls on a Saturday or Monday its celebration is abrogated to Sunday.