International Women’s Day

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On this International Women’s Day , I have been pondering the “Woman,” Mary (cf. John 2:4, 19:26)

Mary is a little bit of an enigma to me. As a mother, I feel that I’m supposed to look to her in everything, especially regarding my family. But that’s exactly the disconnect: how do I, a sinful mother of three children, relate to a sinless mother with a perfect, sinless child?

It seems impossible. And furthermore, when my children are covered in poop and running around the house screaming at one another, it seems completely ridiculous.

But as Dominicans, we have a special devotion to Mary as our mother and patroness. So if I can’t match the Blessed Mother in patience, grace, holiness or any of these other perfections she enjoyed, what can I learn from her?

Here are just a few brief lessons I am pondering and I offer them for your consideration today:

First of all, we learn from Mary how women should support one another in time of need.

“Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” — Lk 1:39b-40

When was the last time I went with haste to help a fellow mother in need? 
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Visitation, Mariotto Albertinelli

Women love one another, have compassion on one another and share each other’s blessings.

“The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosened by Mary’s obedience. The bonds fastened by the virgin Eve through disbelief were untied by the virgin Mary through faith.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies)

When was the last time I rejoiced at another woman’s blessings, rather than feeling jealous? When I have failed, do I accept help, especially from other women? When was the last time I shared my blessings with a woman in need?
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Eve and Mary, by Sr Grace Remington ocso

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learn from Mary, though, is that in order to fully be ourselves, we must all be completely, unwaveringly devoted to Jesus Christ.

Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless and clothe the naked (Mt 25) and in so doing, He tells us that we serve Him in disguise.  But Mary fed, sheltered and clothed the boy Christ, God who so humbled himself as to become completely dependent on his earthly mother. “When did I see you naked and clothe you?” she could ask her son. Jesus would laugh, “When I was born! And every day since!” Mary would shrug her shoulders and say: “But that is just what a loving mother does!”   We are never diminished in our humble labors, only exalted, as Mary now serves in her role as the most exalted of all creatures:

“Mary has the authority over the angels and the blessed in heaven. As a reward for her great humility, God gave her the power and mission of assigning to saints the thrones made vacant by the apostate angels who fell away through pride. Such is the will of the almighty God who exalts the humble, that the powers of heaven, earth and hell, willingly or unwillingly, must obey the commands of the humble Virgin Mary. For God has made her queen of heaven and earth, leader of his armies, keeper of his treasure, dispenser of his graces, mediatrix on behalf of men, destroyer of his enemies, and faithful associate in his great works and triumphs.”
–St. Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin

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On this International Women’s Day, I therefore pray for all women around the world to be treated with dignity, respect and honor. I pray that they will, in turn, reflect the love of Mary for God as they honor and serve their parents, siblings, friends, teachers, husbands and children. I pray that governments, but more importantly individuals, will love and honor the feminine genius of all women who embrace their vocations– no matter what shape that takes! May women be permitted to be themselves, so that men can more fully be themselves and we can all build the Kingdom together.

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