A moment can change the course of a person’s life.
For Mary, her role as mother of the Church was cemented the moment she agreed to be the theotokos, the bearer of Jesus Christ.
“When we think of Mary, we think of her fiat, her ‘yes’ to God,” said Katie Dawson, director of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange. “She is the prototype for Christians admitting themselves to the will of God and opening themselves up to the life that he’s inviting us into. She’s the perfect model of that.”
It is Mary’s lived experience – the fruit of a wholehearted ‘yes’ to God – that provides Catholics a great model of the life of discipleship, Dawson said.
“That is really what the Christian life is all about,” she said. “Mary intimately knew God and it changed her irrevocably. It transformed her and that’s what we are called to, as well; to be transformed by our yes to God. She’s the perfect model of that transformation.”
Following her son’s death, Mary’s presence united the early leaders of the Church, according to Rev. Mark Connolly in posts for Spirituality for Today.
“If you go back to the early period of the Church when there was chaos in the ranks after the death of Christ, there was one person responsible for keeping the twelve apostles together and that was Mary, the mother of Christ,” Connolly wrote.
He spoke of Mary’s motivating role to the apostles who gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem “totally demoralized, completely in the dark as to what their future course of life would be.”
“She guided the twelve apostles with the same inspiration and leadership that she used with her son,” he wrote. “Mary, who gave birth to her son, gave birth to the Church. When you think of Mary’s role, when you think of the role of the Holy Spirit, you soon get an idea of the importance of Mary in the life of Christ and the life of the Church.”
And just as Mary helped to guide Christ through life, mothers continue to play a significant role in a family’s spiritual and emotional development.
Parents, mothers in particular, are often very attuned to the emotional life of their children, especially before adolescence when sometimes they will shut the door and access to their emotional life, said Dawson, a mother of five children.
“We are very much in sync with our children and that allows us to offer some direction, some things to think about, to respond to the child’s personal maturing and journey of faith and the questions they may have as they try to make sense of the answers they receive,” Dawson said.
“The answer you give a 5-year-old about why the world is the way it is, or who God is, those answers don’t work for a 10-year-old. You have to give them a bigger piece of the picture when they get older. If we’re paying attention then we’re better able to speak in that space.”