“You are the closest thing I know to the Blessed Mother on earth.”
How was I supposed to receive that? An impossibly flirty pick-up line, every Catholic girl’s dream compliment, or a call to my far-from-immaculate self to be something more? Somewhere deep down, we all know that’s what we’re called to be as young Catholic women: icons of the Blessed Mother here on earth.
I recall hearing that St. Louis Martin affectionately nicknamed his wife Zelie “my little Blessed Mother.” Now I don’t know if Louis’ term of endearment is fact or fiction, and the thought sure is sweet, but their example doesn’t really make this any more achievable for me. Hardly! They are both saints themselves and parents of none other than the seraphic St. Thérèse of Lisieux. To see myself as virtuous and holy by the grace of God is challenging enough; to see myself as a little Blessed Mother seems near impossible.
Enter our second Louis: feisty medieval preacher and renowned advocate of Marian devotion, St. Louis de Montfort. He details the virtues of Mary in his classic “True Devotion to Mary,” listing the following 10 qualities: profound humility, lively faith, blind obedience, constant prayer, universal mortification, surpassing purity, ardent charity, heroic patience, angelic sweetness and divine wisdom. Once more, I’m overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task. If that is what it means to be like Mary, I have an eternity to go.
My interior monologue begins again. Obedience is hard enough, and I’m supposed to demonstrate blind obedience? Sure, I’m practicing moments of mortification (does not eating sweets on Mondays count?), but it’s supposed to be universal! What is that even supposed to mean? Universal as in “it absorbs every aspect of my life” or as in “it impacts the entire world?” Knowing Louis de Montfort and the Blessed Mother, probably both. This feels unachievable. The task is so large I almost give up.
But I decide to start. I take a pretty, old jar, decorate it my way, write each virtue onto its own small slip of colored paper, fold them over and drop them in. My Mary jar. My call to be like her.
Every morning I reach in and pull out one tiny slip of paper. Every morning I make some resolution to follow her in that virtue today. Maybe it’s a little prayer, a miniscule sacrifice, a moment of silent meditation on her virtue.
Today’s virtue: angelic sweetness. I glance at my Bouguereau image of her innocence and whisper a prayer that my words today would be only honey. My day goes on, and when my brother yells at me from the other room, I take a deep breath and wait to reply.
I begin to realize that I’m not supposed to be the Blessed Mother. I’m supposed to be a little Blessed Mother. And littleness doesn’t refer to my size, it refers to my attitude. It slowly dawns on me that I can’t imagine being a “Blessed Mother on earth” because I equate her qualities to queenly splendor, miraculous apparitions and all-powerful intercession. I’ve forgotten that she is first of all small — small in her humble heart, submissive attitude and absolute trust in the Father.
Unachievable is right. It is all unachievable. But it is when I realize my own littleness to accomplish my call that I’ve finally learned it right. Unachievable by my power but possible with his grace. This time my eyes close in silent appreciation, and I feel a smile spreading. Louis has it right. There’s no place too little to start to be like her — for more than anything, I have to choose to be small. A little Blessed Mother.
Now that that’s settled, I have only one question remaining. To whom did Joseph compare Mary? Ruth, Esther, Judith? Loyal daughter-in-law. Fearless queen. Gorgeous warrior. Yes, I’m glad I don’t have to live up to all that. I’ll stick with the little Blessed Mother. Mary’s most glorious moment of fame is forever simple, my call forever clear: to be a girl who said yes.