Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he had told her. -Jn 20:11-18 (via USCCB)
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Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter said to him, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” - Jn 13:36-38
May is the month that we celebrate mothers and spiritual mothers. This role of spiritual maternity is very close to the heart of our mission to transform the world one woman at a time.
I remember a women’s retreat I conducted some years ago. In addition to the many laywomen present, there were a few religious. In one of my talks, I addressed the mission of Catholic women. When the talk was over, one of the sisters came up to me with a glow on her face and tears in her eyes. She told me she had been a religious for more than thirty years, and only that day had come to a full understanding of her vocation.
This religious sister is not alone. Many of us have questioned what it means to be a woman, and a Catholic woman at that. We know there is something dynamic and unique about it, but just what it seems to evade us. What is more, deep inside we sense that true fulfillment and happiness is somehow inextricably linked to our femininity. Where do we go to get the answer? To whom do we turn to find the way?
We need not look far. When we look to the mission of the Catholic woman, we look to our Blessed Mother. Luke 1:26-45 presents Our Lady’s Annunciation and her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. When Mary arrives at the house of her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with her first child, Elizabeth cries out in greeting, “Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears the baby leapt in my womb for joy. Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.”
These lines tell us much. The leap of the Baptist and the assertion of Elizabeth proclaim that the fruit of Mary’s womb is the long-awaited Messiah and Redeemer. Mary, pregnant with Divine Life, carries that life to others. She is the Christ-bearer who brings salvation by her very presence. As the physical mother of the Savior, Mary is the spiritual mother of the elect (CCC #969).
As Catholic women, our call is to emulate the spiritual motherhood of Mary. Some of us will be physical mothers, but each of us is called to spiritual motherhood. Through receptivity, trust, and surrender, “women impregnated with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling” (“Letter to Women,” Vatican Council II). Imbued with the Divine Life and fortified by prayer, fervent reception of the sacraments, and virtuous living, Catholic women who assume their God-given call to spiritual motherhood will do great things for the Kingdom of God – we can indeed become the healers of the world.
This month, please join us in celebrating the gift of woman and her call to spiritual motherhood. Let us encourage women to embrace the truth of their identity and to be lights shining in the darkness of the day. Finally, let us share with them the exemplar of the true Woman of Grace, the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose “fiat” brought salvation to the world. May Mary, our spiritual mother, inspire the “yes” of our lives as we seek to be the women of grace God intends us to be.
May the abundant life of Jesus Christ be yours and may God bless you!
I faithfully remain... Your sister in Christ,
Johnnette Benkovic Williams Founder and President
PS: If you don’t already receive our Daily Gracelines, I encourage you to sign up and share them with others. This month’s topic is Mary’s Spiritual Motherhood. Go to womenofgrace.com/signup. You will also receive the latest updates from our apostolate by also signing up for our enewsletter.
As we sojourn together through the final days of Lent, Holy Week, and the current Coronavirus pandemic, we recognize now more than ever that suffering and sorrow are part of the human condition. However, when they are united to the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, suffering and sorrow become part of the supernatural dimension. By virtue of our baptism, all of us are called to participate in the sufferings of Christ in ways that are uniquely our own. I think of this reality as I meditate upon Our Lady’s never-ending fiat.
Theologians tell us Mary’s assent at the Annunciation was also her assent to the tortures of Golgotha. She didn’t understand exactly how God would work it out, but she did understand the proposal at hand: she was to be the mother of the Messiah. Familiar with the teaching of the prophets, Mary also understood what this meant – He would be a suffering servant (Is. 53:3-12), and she, by virtue of her motherhood, would suffer with Him.
Her understanding was confirmed by Simeon when she and Joseph presented Jesus to the Father: “A sword will pierce your own heart,” she heard him say (Luke: 2:33-35). But could she imagine the sword? And how would she respond to it?
Luke gives us insight into Mary’s means of appropriating the sufferings of her Son’s life and, therefore, her life’s sufferings, too. He tells us that she pondered them in her heart. The mystic par excellence, her response was reflective and contemplative. It yielded an unquestioning surrender to the Father’s will each time that will was revealed to her. Thus, from the moment of the Annunciation, Mary actively conformed to the cross that would one day bear her Son.
Long before she stood at the foot of His cross on Calvary’s hill, she interiorly beheld its mystery and embraced it. Ultimately, she entered into it.
This movement of the interior was not unfamiliar to Mary. The Fathers of the Church remind us that Mary conceived Jesus in her heart before she conceived Him in her womb. Would we not then expect that she mystically bore the pain of His Passion and death before He lived it out in time?
Confronted with such a thing, what would a mother do, especially this mother?
Would she not imbue her Son’s sufferings with maternal beatitude? Would she not offer her suffering to the Father on His behalf? Not that she could lessen the pain or add to the eternal merit He was acquiring, but rather, to offer her presence as a consolation to the travail He would endure. Was not her every “yes” to the Father’s will laden with a sweet unction that would be released in her Son’s heart at the moment He needed it most?
Perhaps it was precisely this He experienced as she ministered to Him on His ascent to Golgotha. Beholding her, He beheld pure love. He recognized that Eternal Love from which all true love is generated. In her He saw embodied the self-donating love of the Trinitarian life.
Surely it was this He saw in her when they met on the way. Surely it was this He saw in her as she stood sentry beneath the tree upon which He hung. And surely it was this that breathed with Him as He breathed His last and commended Himself to the Father.
Ultimately, only heaven will give us the answers. But one thing is certain. Each of us, like Our Lady, is called to be present to the mystery. To behold it. To embrace it. To enter into it. To let it enter into us. This is the mission of Lent. It is the glory of Easter. It is the triumph of everlasting life. So be it. And so be you and me in the midst of all things including the Covid-19 pandemic.
Please know that in this difficult time, we stand with you soul-to-soul in a special way. You are invited to join us for a weekly live Women of Grace Warrior’s Rosary Crusade live each Wednesday at 4PM ET until this pandemic is behind us. With God’s grace, we will get through this together.
I faithfully remain... Your sister in Christ,
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