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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mary and the Apostles

This morning while praying the rosary on the way to work, I was considering the relationship of Mary to the Apostles. When she stood at the foot of the cross, Jesus said to John, “There is your mother.” And to Mary, “there is your son.’

This passage has a depth of meaning I’m only beginning to understand. While we all know that in this, Jesus gave Mary not only to John, but to John as a representative of Himself [Jesus], and thus, making Mary the Mother of the Church. Here, though, I want to explore a little of the historicity and the spiritual depths relating to that which prior to this, I had not realized.

A little historical context

There was a very practical dimension to Jesus giving his Mother to John and John to His Mother; as Mary had no other children to care for her, and Joseph, tradition holds, had died, she would have been alone in the world. In that time and place, widows weren't exactly esteemed, and if they didn't have family, well...there's a reason the early Christians took an especial interest in widows and children.

God has a long long history of caring for the lowly; as Jesus taught, “the last shall be first.” In giving her to John, and John to her, He ensured that both would be cared for.

I realized that meant that, along with the other women who had followed the long tradition in the culture at that time of caring for their teachers, so Mary continued to care not only for John, and for the Apostles, she probably received in her motherly way any followers of Christ, her Son. Yet, by extension, while she walked the earth John and the Apostles would have had a special relationship with the Mother of the Lord. In realizing who HE was, they would have had a reverence for her probably not given to any other woman.

Although it's a topic for a different post, most people don't realize that true feminism was born out of the Judeo-Christian traditions that become plainly apparent in an honest reading of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. The Apostles, having been three years in the company of Our Lord, having had exposure to His respect for women and His treatment of their history (for Jesus was, in fact, a Jew), would have recognized in Mary the preparation given to them through their ancient scriptures and the stories of Sarah and Hagar, Hannah, Judith, and Esther (among others!).

Knowing this led me into a greater consideration of the motherhood of priests. Mary's care for and concern for the Apostles and their reciprocating care for her is what I consider as a model for us all to follow. It is well known that Mary has a special relationship with Priests, a dimension that cannot belong to the laity. Each and every Priest, as he represents the priesthood of Christ, standing in His persona, is also a son of Mary in a way that extends beyond the depths of our own relationship with God as adopted sons and daughters.

This also made me reflect upon the relationship with Mary that belongs specifically to religious sisters. They are called as we all are, to imitate Christ. But in a special way, they are also called to imitate Mary as their perfect model, secondary to Our Lord.

Many Sisters I know have also sensed a calling within their vocation to especially apply their role as spiritual mothers to Priests. When I consider Mary and the Apostles, I can’t see how religious life could possibly NOT be also a Call to the spiritual motherhood of priests!

It’s historical. It’s traditional.

In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas and good philosophy, it's fitting!

Although I haven’t studied it in depth, I do know that throughout the history of the Church there has been some animosity between the priesthood and religious sisters. The early Dominican friars didn’t want to take time from preaching publicly to the need for spiritually caring for the cloistered contemplatives. As a result, Dominic and his successors found it necessary to intervene to explain that were it not for this powerhouse of praying women, their preaching ministry would not survive. In our very century, I know of Sisters who were badly treated by pompous priests who had no respect for them and treated them as indentured servants or worse.

Today, though, I can’t think of a single young (ie under 50) faithful religious Sister who has had an experience such as that, for things have changed in this regard, much for the better. In fact, the priests I know obviously have a great deal or respect and high regard for the religious sisters with whom they have contact, and vice versa. I realize that this relationship is one probably very much like that of Mary and the other women who cared for the Apostles through prayer and other types of material support that made it possible to evangelize the world. In turn, I see how priests seem always ready to also care for the needs of the various religious communities within their sphere of influence.

I will continue to ponder this for I have not yet plumbed the great depths of the Gospels, nor of the spiritualiy of Our Blessed Mother who has so much to show us. This semester I am taking a course in the history and doctrine of Mary and hope that my studies will, as she always does, bring me ever closer to Jesus. If there is anything I can do to bring you along with me, I will do so.

Please pray for Priests and women religious as the mirror of Mary and the Apostles so that we might all recognize in this mirror the reflection and importance of this spiritual reality to the entire Church.

Author's Note:
*There is a great deal more to the animosity and bad feelings of some religious sisters and priests than I have written and I do NOT intend this paragraph to be complete, nor is it completely accurate. As it's not the point of my post, please refrain from any combox diatribes, although I would welcome links to respectful and faithful scholarly articles fairly describing this reality.


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I too have thought about this

precious cup said...

As I renewed my consecration to the Blessed Virgin, I had the operaitunity to study for a month. My son had recently taken a class on Mariology and for Christmas gave me all of his use books. What a delight! I feel the biggest thing that came to me was Mary the spouse of the Holy spirit. I kept thinking about how in our faith when we take a spouse, the two become one. This is when I really started to understand my consecration. I feel, She is our gift , ever since that moment when she was given to us at the foot of the cross. Now she stands as coredemptrix, ready to assist through grace, in all matters. It makes it easier for me to go to her for everything. It was Jesus' request.

Adoro said...

Precious Cup ~ it is beautiful, isn't it? I may write more on that later as our semester progresses, but found striking for now the mirror of her relationship to the Apostles versus what we see today.

So many dimensions of Mary and the Church!

lois in Indy said...

In the second sentence of the second paragraph of this post, you said Mary gave Jesus to John when, I think, you meant Jesus gave Mary to John... I could be wrong but the sentence confused me the way it is written. Blessings and peace. lois

Adoro said...

Lois ~ OOPS! Thanks, corrected that, you are correct. :-)

All fixed!

Moniales said...

Just a little clarification: the reason why the Friars complained about the care of the early Nuns is because it was more than just chaplain and confessor. Each monastery had a small priory of friars (about 5 or 6) attached to the monastery. The friars took care of the temporal affairs of the monastery as well as Mass, confession, direction, etc.
That's fine with 3 or 4 monasteries but then suddenly large numbers of monasteries, especially in Germany wanted to become part of the Order and this would have taken a major amount of friars away from their first work, that is preaching.
So, there was something to their complaint.
On the other hand some of them were just plain selfish!