Purest of All Lilies

Fr. Donald H. Calloway, MIC, explores St. Faustina... Read more

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by Mary Flannery

Some time ago, perhaps two or three years, I asked my spiritual director, Fr. Francis, how I could come to know the Blessed Virgin better and to experience the deep affection for her that I saw in others. I wanted to know what I was missing — what they understood that I just wasn't getting. I knew people who were so devoted to her and who seemed to have a very intimate experience of her. I understood that she is our mother, I just hadn't experienced her as my mother. Father Francis told me to speak to her and tell her that I want to get to know her. So I did.

She seemed very pleased by that request, and since then, she has been revealing herself to me — we've been getting to know each other.

Sometimes we can overlook the answers to our prayers because they're right under our noses. Shortly after making my request, I took a job with the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge, Mass., and was immersed in a community of intense dedication to Our Blessed Mother. Coincidence? I don't think so.

It's also no accident that I've begun to see her hand and hear her voice in the occurrences of daily life. She has taught me that her greatest attribute is her perfect humility. In fact, she has given me a burning desire to attain this virtue, and it has become the focus of my prayer life. I am convinced daily of my need for it, and I'm learning to view the challenging circumstances of life as opportunities to grow in humility.

Recently, while praying and meditating on sin, I was moved to tears by our propensity to sin. I loathe the thought of offending Jesus, and yet I do it. Saint Paul writes:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me (Rom 7:14-20).

But the Blessed Virgin Mary was not impaired in this way. She was sinless. From the moment of her conception she has been immaculate. She walked this same world as we do, and she faced many of the same things we face. But, although Satan surely tried to tempt her, she didn't have that same propensity to sin.

Imagine living without sin. Imagine being so close to Jesus that none of the things that Satan uses — distraction, temptation, confusion, fatigue, excitement, sadness, anger, pride, etc. — get in the way of union with Him. Imagine experiencing no struggle or inner conflict in fulfilling God's will. Imagine no barriers whatsoever between us and God's perfect will. Imagine being drawn up into that infinite exchange on love that is the Holy Trinity!

I imagine that this is what Mary experienced. And here's the best part: When we conquer sin and follow her to heaven, this is what we, too, will experience — perfect union with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Since coming to work for the Marians, I have also been introduced to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, and she has become something of a big sister to me. Our Blessed Mother taught St. Faustina about humility. I've been so moved and inspired by several passages from St. Faustina's Diary that beautifully illustrate the intensity of her desire for holiness and willingness to suffer humiliation for a taste of that union with God:

Once, when I was in the kitchen with Sister N., she got a little upset with me and, as a punishment, ordered me to sit on the table while she herself continued to work hard, cleaning and scrubbing. And while I was sitting there, the sisters came along and were astounded to find me sitting on the table, and each one had her say. One said that I was a loafer and another, "What an eccentric!" I was a postulant at the time. Others said, "What kind of a sister will she make?" Still, I could not get down because sister had ordered me to sit there by virtue of obedience until she told me to get down. Truly, God alone knows how many acts of self-denial it took. I thought I'd die of shame. God often allowed such things for the sake of my inner formation, but He compensated me for this humiliation by a great consolation. During Benediction I saw Him in great beauty. Jesus looked at me kindly and said, "My daughter, do not be afraid of sufferings; I am with you" (Dairy, 151).

Mary, my mother, has shown me that by imitating her — her perfect humility — I can have a small taste of that union with Her Son. When I am faced with a difficult situation that causes me hurt, sadness, anger, or frustration, it is almost always because I am holding on to my will and my ideas about how things should really be. The truth is that nothing happens outside of the will of God, and humility is an acceptance of our utter dependence upon, and surrender to, that will.

Our Blessed Mother has shown me that when I am willing to humble myself — actually welcoming humiliation — the brief experience of union with Mary and Her Son is the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. I've only tasted it a few times so far, always in the midst of adversity, and always through humiliation.

And I am hungry for more.

Mary Flannery works in the Marians' Editorial Department as associate editor and designer.

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IC - Aug 6, 2008

Thanks. God bless you all.
" Behold , your mother!"(John19:27), Jesus tells us. " Do whatever He tells you"(John 2:5),our Most Blessed Mother tells us. She sang The Magnificat, the song of humility.

I feel compelled to narrate an instance in the life of Blessed Alphonsa Muttathupadathu of the Fransiscan Clarist Convent Bharananganam ,(diocese of Pala) Kerala, India very parallel to the one cited in (Diary 151).
Report has it that the novice sisters were working in the garden as the then Bishop of Changanacherry visited the convent. With great respect, sister Alphonsa brought a chair for him. " you, sit on it", the bishop told her. Without hesitation ,sister Alphonsa obeyed the insruction. As the Superior and senior sisters were coming to greet the bishop they saw sister Alphonsa sitting on the chair and the bishop standing in the garden.Good Jesus, You give us instances of self-denial and humiliation to become true witnesses of Your Love, Mercy and Obedience, accept the intercession of Your Divine Mother and all the saints. Blessed Alphonsa Muttathupadathu (FCC) will be canonized in Rome on 12th October 2008.

Carole - Aug 15, 2008

I have many times suffered humiliations and had very unfair things said. I wondered why this always happens to poor little innocent me. Well, l also have an inordinate sense of pride and of desiring others to think highly of me. I am talking bad things and l never know how to combat these things so it goes on and on. I would like to be able at least to offer all to the Lord but get very down because of this type of thing. If I were Sr. Alphonsa in the August 6 th letter I would be in such a stew l would lose all merit. Out side of a great miracle l guess my greatest humiliation will be my own self. I am almost 70 and this is something l do not know how to deal with. Any one that wants to give advice so l can grow spiritually please feel free.

Neli - Aug 16, 2008

I grew up during the sixties and seventies and remember my grandmother calling me and my sister to bed, before going to sleep, to teach us how to pray the Hail Mary, the Our Father, Salve Regina, Guardian angel, Credo, etc. It was due to her patience that we learned how to pray. Every Sunday she would take us to church to hear mass and it was the time that we had to have a chapel veil on our heads, and I remember when it was cold we, my sister and I, would walk with our heads under each one under of the hollow of my grandmother's arms to keep our ears warm. Well, she passed away many years ago...but I still pray her prayers... Looking back it was the best time of my life. I moved to the USA thirty years ago, and with the fast paced life I stopped praying the rosary that I used to pray to our Lady of Fatima, my husband told me that we were going to stop going every Sunday to church, etc...Well, I believe that due to my lack of spiritual activity (even if I made the effort that my children had a catholic education in a parish school) I think that evil came into my life, big time. A couple years ago, I started to buy good christian books, such as: Padre Pio own words, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Bernardete of Lourdes, True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort, St. Theresa de Avila, Salvation through Prayer, The Cure D'Ars (beautiful story of his life), St. Athansius on the incarnation, The catholic controversy by St. Francis de Sales, the Roman Martirology, etc, etc...I would like to say that I had two bibles but they were forgotten and the first book that I bought that I believe started to bring me back to the catholic spiritual mood was Sister Faustina Diary that I bought through a nun from Connecticut. In short, slowly my faith and the deepening of my understanding about the catholic faith and religion started to light upon me ( I feel that many catholic people all over the world should read at least the Bible everyday, and books about the saints and the revelations given to them by Jesus or Our Lady, should be know to the people, so they could understand in depth what the religion and the message of Christ is all about. Some children cathecism just cover the basics, teenagers should have another cathecism with deeper instructions about the catholic faith), and my life is a little better but I still have a big deffect in me: I loose my temper very quickly, my son and my husband being the ones who can manage to ge me to the boiling point. Then I repent and I tell to Our Lady: " I ask your forgiveness, I feel like and hypocrite, I pray in the morning and I scream in the evening". I am trying to curb this tendency but it is hard. Sometimes I can do it and I have noticed that if I pray the urge to scream goes away. I hope that this helps anyone with the same problem.

mimi - Aug 17, 2008

how wonderful to hear the action of our Blessed Mother in real people's lives right now. It gives me great hope to be more humble. I am afraid of praying for humility. I have struggled with situations demanding humility after such prayers. It is good to know that others also struggle and yet continue to pray and try.

Jeffrey Andrews - Nov 11, 2008

What a Blessing to See Our Blessed Mother Work in Your Life ,I am more now
directed towards Praying Much More My Daily Rosary,In Srtonger and Much alot More SteadFast FAITH.In Our Blessed Lady!!!!

Jeffrey Andrews - Nov 11, 2008

Here is a Prayer I Prayed on the Number #3 Portland Maine Metro Bus to
Our Blessed Lady I always Pray to HER on My way to the Ave Maria Religious
Catholic BookStore,Here now is that Prayer on 8/31/06=
AND Our Blessed Lady Will Allwaysz,PRAY FOR ALL OF US,World Wide