Mary did not autonomously conduct her life: she waits for God to take the reins of her path and guide her where He wants. She is docile, and with her availability she prepares the grand events in which God takes part in the world.
— Pope Francis, General Audience, November 18, 2020
In his Wednesday audience this week, Pope Francis continued his series of catecheses on prayer. This time he focused on Mary, and how she serves as a model for our Christian prayer life. He speaks about how Mary, before she even knew she would become the mother of Our Lord, was a person of prayer:
The Madonna prayed. When the world still knew nothing of her, when she was a simple girl engaged to a man of the house of David, Mary prayed. We can imagine the young girl of Nazareth wrapped in silence, in continual dialogue with God who would soon entrust her with a mission. She is already full of grace and immaculate from the moment she was conceived; but she knows nothing yet of her surprising and extraordinary vocation and the stormy sea she will have to cross.
The part of Francis’s reflection that stood most to me was his explanation of how prayer can calm a restless heart. At times we become anxious or impatient. Sometimes we become nervous with uncertainty about the future. Quite often, I find myself filled with worry about the present (“Have I forgotten something important?” or “Am I handling this situation correctly?”). It is only through prayer that we become fully open and receptive to what God wants from us. He is always with us, and when our spiritual lives grow through prayer and meditation on the Word of God that we become aware of his presence and open to his will. Francis explains:
Prayer knows how to calm restlessness. We are restless, we always want things before asking for them, and we want them right away. This restlessness harms us. And prayer knows how to calm restlessness, knows how to transform it into availability. When we are restless, I pray and prayer opens my heart and makes me open to God’s will. In those few moments of the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary knew how to reject fear, even while sensing that her “yes” would bring her tremendously difficult trials. If in prayer we understand that each day given by God is a call, our hearts will then widen and we will accept everything. We will learn how to say: “What You want, Lord. Promise me only that You will be present every step of my way”. This is important: to ask the Lord to be present on every step of our way: that He not leave us alone, that He not abandon us in temptation, that He not abandon us in the bad moments.
Francis reminds us that Mary is our model for this, as she lived out perfectly her relationship with God through life’s trials and uncertainties:
Everything that happens around her ends up being reflected on in the depths of her heart: the days filled with joy, as well as the darkest moments when even she struggles to understand by which roads the Redemption must pass. Everything ends up in her heart so that it might pass through the sieve of prayer and be transfigured by it: whether it be the gifts of the Magi, or the flight into Egypt, until that terrible passion Friday. The Mother keeps everything and brings it to her dialogue with God. Someone has compared Mary’s heart to a pearl of incomparable splendour, formed and smoothed by patient acceptance of God’s will through the mysteries of Jesus meditated on in prayer.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, intercede for us to help us become receptive to God’s Will for our lives. Amen.
Image: Pope Francis blesses a statue of Mary in Madagascar. Vatican News.