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Mary Leads the Way

Parents can learn from Our Lady’s joy amid difficulties

Mary Rose Somarriba

August 15 is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, a holy day of obligation. Catholics all over the world will gather for Mass to celebrate the rising of Mary, body and soul, into heaven at the end of her earthly life.

At Mass on Friday, congregants will hear the Gospel telling the story of the Visitation, when Mary traveled to her expectant cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth greets Mary with words that now have become part of the Hail Mary, and Mary replies with a canticle prayer that is now called the Magnificat.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant,” she exclaims. Shortly after comes a line quite appropriate on the feast of her Assumption: “He has lifted up the lowly.”

Mary experiences victory over death in her Assumption. But light’s triumph over darkness is not just something that happened at her life’s end. It’s an outlook Mary had her entire life which is told in the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary.

After becoming “troubled” by the words of the angel announcing that she would be the mother of the savior (The Annunciation), she puts aside her concerns and rushes through the hill country to help her relative Elizabeth, who is pregnant in old age (The Visitation). Despite the hardships, Mary is joyful. She eventually gives birth to her own child after traveling miles to Bethlehem and finding no room at the inn. Yet Mary remains joyful (The Nativity). Then when fulfilling the law by bringing the child into the temple, she learns from an elderly prophet that her heart will be pierced with sorrow. Yet even this fails to dampen her joy (The Presentation). Finally, when she and Joseph lose the child for a few days in a big city, she feels sorrow, yet is overcome with joy at finding him safe (The Finding in the Temple).

Most mothers, I think, would be broken by the stress of these events. Yet Mary is “full of grace” and able to see God’s design. She also had the benefit of her husband’s quiet but powerful love and presence. Joseph plays a part in each of these mysteries.

There is a lesson here for us married couples.

The culture often tells us that marriage is stressful and children a burden. Yet when lived according to Mary’s example, inevitable burdens are shared. Heavy loads are carried by two people who are committed to the long haul, guided by God’s call and equipped with his grace.

In addition, Mary’s joyful attitude is in no small part due to her Immaculate Heart aligning itself to God’s will. It started with her yes at the Annunciation and continued onward. The events that followed may have included trials, but Mary had an eternal outlook. Events don’t have to be happy for a person to be joyful. “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” she said. One can’t rejoice in a savior without acknowledging that there are conditions in the world to be saved from.

What couple hasn’t experienced the feeling of being ill-prepared? Mary and Joseph experienced that in Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born. What parents haven’t experienced the feeling of overlooking an important detail? Mary and Joseph did when they left Jesus in Jerusalem.

Mary experienced the same trials we do, yet she relied on God’s grace, as should we. Celebrating the feast of the Assumption at Mass, meditating on the mysteries of the rosary, asking Mary’s prayers that we accept life’s challenges with a joyful heart—these are just some ways we can grow closer to Mary’s perfect discipleship. In so doing, we’ll be closer to God’s plan for us in this life and in the life to come, as we look forward to the resurrection of the dead. Here, again, Our Lady precedes us in her Assumption to heaven. As ever, she leads the way.

Mary Rose Somarriba is executive editor and culture editor of Verily Magazine. She and her husband Gabriel live in Northern Texas with their two children.