By Sister Carolyn McWatters
Each year on August 15 we observe the Feast of the Assumption. The Church celebrates its belief that due to the holiness of Mary’s life and the privilege given her to be the Mother of God’s Son, her human nature was perfected; she did not experience bodily death but was taken up soul and body into heaven. The Assumption is one of the many rich mysteries of our faith, assuring us that like Mary, each member of the church will ultimately be perfected through union with Christ. Mary’s assumption signals that “the corporate human journey will reach its blessed goal” (Elizabeth Johnson, Truly Our Sister, p 99).
The Church’s liturgical calendar is filled with many other feasts focused on some aspect of Mary’s life. The uniqueness of this Jewish woman and the place she plays in salvation history have brought the Catholic faithful to bestow many titles on her through the centuries. These titles reveal much about the esteem and reverence in which she has traditionally been held. Certainly, no single title suffices to fully describe her; rather, the multiple titles give us diverse lenses through which to see her and appreciate her gifts and meaning for our lives.
Tomes have been written through the ages about this simple woman, and there is much we can learn about her from them. Ultimately, however, her meaning for our lives can only be discovered when we come to know her personally by befriending the woman she is. We can only truly appreciate Mary through developing a relationship with her. We can get to know her by reflecting on any of the aspects of her life: a young girl who struggled with an unforeseen pregnancy; a young mother who raised her child in wonderment and faith amid great uncertainty; a middle-aged woman who had to let her son go to begin an itinerant ministry she likely did not understand; a bereft woman who experienced and grieved the agony of his cruel torture and death. Mary was a real flesh-and-blood woman who knew firsthand the difficulties and struggle of life in first century Palestine. Scripture testifies that she carefully pondered in her heart all the events of her life with Jesus, relying totally on God’s providence and grace to lead and sustain her. Her faith gave her strength and wisdom, and a deep interiority.
Mary has much to teach us about living our own lives with courage and fidelity. She offers to walk with us as sister. Consider: What are the points in your life that intersect with hers? How does Mary’s Fiat inform your own? What are you laboring to give birth to which could benefit from her friendship and counsel? What are the areas of your heart that are filled with questioning and uncertainty? How does her hiddenness, her watching from the sidelines, connect with anything in your life? How does her steadfast spirit speak to yours?
Many sisters expressed appreciation for the prayer the Institute Prayer and Ritual Committee prepared in August 2021, which featured images and titles of Mary that hold sacred significance for the faithful in several countries of our Institute. Thus, we offer it again here for your reflection. Make it personal by adding a picture or image of Mary that touches your heart. Allow her to walk with you as sister.