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Hearts Reaching Into Misery

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By Marc Massery

Last month, we talked about patience, the eighth of the Blessed Virgin Mary's Evangelical Virtues. This month, we address Mary's ninth Evangelical Virtue: mercy.


The word "mercy" comes from the Latin word "misericordia," which is the combination of two Latin words, "miseriae" meaning "misery" and "cor" meaning "heart." In other words, mercy involves the heart of one person reaching into the misery of another. That's what God did for us when He died on the Cross. He reached into our misery and redeemed us.

Our Lady reached into the misery of others, too. As the woman most closely formed to the image of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary exemplified God's mercy as no other created creature could. There are two especially striking examples in the Gospels of the Blessed Virgin Mary embodying mercy.

Ministering to Elizabeth

After the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive of the Child Jesus, he also said that her relative Elizabeth had conceived a child in her old age. As soon as the angel left Mary, Scripture says, "Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth" (Lk 1:39-40). Elizabeth must have been struggling. Think about it: She was six months pregnant and long past typical childbearing years. Realizing Elizabeth's need, Mary didn't hesitate to reach into Elizabeth's suffering. Sure, Mary likely helped Elizabeth with chores during her three-month stay, but more importantly, the Blessed Mother brought Christ to her cousin's family. As the Gospel says, "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, [was] filled with the holy Spirit ...'" (Lk 1:41). Father Louis Cameli explained it this way:

We know that no real love remains silent and unexpressed for very long. ... If Mary's journey to visit Elizabeth seems abrupt and unplanned to some people, it is because they have not understood how faith and love work. Mary had to share her story, and some part of herself by serving.

Wedding Feast at Cana

We all remember when Jesus and Mary were at a wedding feast in Cana and the wedding party ran out of wine. Mary approached Jesus and said simply, "They have no wine" (Lk 2:3). Then Christ performed His first public miracle, changing six large jugs of water into the best tasting wine at the celebration.

Yet again, Mary recognized a need and addressed it without being asked. Mary didn't need to say much to Christ. She simply stated the problem. But had she not gone to Him for help, the party would have gone without wine and the wedding couple would have suffered an embarrassment.

In the end, these two examples of Mary showing mercy were simple gestures. But each problem she addressed involved human suffering. This reminds us that we don't need to wait until others have an insurmountable problem to help them. Whenever we encounter suffering, we can turn to our Lord, as Our Lady did, and ask for help as we reach into the misery of others and minister to them.

Next month, we address the tenth of the Blessed Virgin Mary's Evangelical Virtues: sorrow.

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