Who is she to you? Who is Mary to you? How do you relate to her?
Perhaps the first relationship that popped into your head was Mother. But have you ever considered her a Teacher? What about as someone who can teach us about gender? About growing up as a teenage boy or girl? About being a man or being a woman?
For a while I’ve been reading this book, “Mary, Our Mother and Educator” by Fr Joseph Kentenich, the founder of the international Catholic lay movement called Schoenstatt. In 1954, Pope Pius XII proclaimed a Marian Year to celebrate the centennial of the proclamtion of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception (read about the Year and the encyclical here). During this Marian Year, Fr Kentenich gave talks about Mary and her role in God’s plan of salvation and her relationship to us; the talks were compiled into this book.
I wanted to share with y’all a passage that really struck me, where Fr Kentenich talks about Mary being our Teacher, our Educator. Keep in mind he is saying these things in the US in the 1950’s!
“Moreover, there is no denying that Mary’s bountiful, kind and wise motherhood gives a proper answer to the need for shelteredness and education which is found in the child and in the adolescent whose pressing needs are associated with with growing up. It addresses the need for complementation which lies in the masculine soul as well as the woman’s need for a healthy awareness of her own self-worth which is so endangered from all sides. At present this awareness (of the woman) is built almost exclusively on a masculine set of values, which is the reason why the woman is losing her specific mission in the confusion of our times.” Fr Joseph Kentenich, 1954. Mary, Our Mother and Educator. p 103-104
The need for complementation that lies in the soul, healthy awareness of women’s self worth, women taking on masculine values – sounds right on. And it sounds like it applies even more today than it did back then. (Disclaimer, now I’m going to share my own interpretation of his words!)
In my ministry work with university youth, I have witness first hand this Teacher role that Mary can have in the lives of young men and women. It’s amazing to see how each person relates to her differently, and how in each person, Mary nurtures the masculine and feminine soul to maturity. I have seen young men and women, of all shades of masculinity and femininity (let’s not stereotype, please!), find in the person of Mary firm ground in which they can grow more into who they were fully designed by God to be – sexuality and gender included.
Let’s read some more:
“Deep love for Mary gives the child a warm mother heart to be its nest. For the teenage girl living in an increasingly technological, materialistic and brutal world it secures depth and sensitiveness of personality. For the teenage boy it secures moral purity and knightly strength despite an increasingly erotic and sexualized environment. It provides the man with a healthy complementation for his spiritual being and the woman with a secured awareness of the relationship between the sexes, namely the consciousness of her equal worth in comparison to man despite the many differences which make her unique.” Fr Joseph Kentenich, 1954. Mary, Our Mother and Educator. p 103-104
Like I said, all these seems to be increasingly more relevant, from the 50’s to now. I find it beautiful that Fr Kentenich talks about these comments as “valueable starting points for our relationship with Mary which are found in our nature.” In our nature! So that means that in our very nature – nature meaning our biology, our corporal reality as created beings – God has planted something which naturally reaches out to Mary for education and formation. We typically just think of Mary educating us in supernatural things – like how to pray and how to be faithful. But when we allow Mary to educate our natural self as well, our nature can mature and develop in a healthy way as Mary draws it to God.
In our current cultural climate, don’t you think we could all use a Mother and Educator like Mary?
Blessed Mother Mary, educate us…