Happy feast of the Annunciation to you all! In lieu of my usual blog post, I thought in honour of the feast and of Our Lady that I would share this snippet of my book The Air We Breathe: The Mariology of Catherine Doherty, which seems to me to summarize the main theme and spiritual focus of this day. So... here it is!
For Catherine, Mary was simply a reality: ‘you don’t have devotion to reality, you embrace it.’ So what was this ‘embraceable’ reality of Mary? While Catherine had come to know Mary so deeply through the circumstances of her life and how Mary had come to help her in them, the reality of Mary was much deeper than her own subjective experience. More fundamental to her was the objective and awesome fact of Mary’s role in salvation:
I don’t think I have a “devotion” to Mary. I have something far greater, more immense, far more beautiful. I have an unshakable faith that she is the Mother of God, and hence, the Mother of men. I believe that she fashioned the body that has become to me the Body of her Son in the Eucharistic Sacrifice… Mary said one little word: fiat. She said it in faith, in God. She asked one or two questions, but immediately she accepted the will of God. She accepted without understanding…[i]
This is the heart of Marian reality according to Catherine: Mary gave her flesh to Jesus, and this Flesh is truly the salvation of the world. She did this by saying fiat – let it be done to me according to Thy will. She did not understand, at least not fully, what she was saying yes to.
This basic Marian fact, which is a simple fact of scripture available to anyone who believes in Jesus, is utterly central to the life of the Christian disciple. For we too are to give our flesh to God. Christ wills to be born in our souls by faith and come to maturity there through hope and love, the work of his Spirit in us who comes to us through the sacramental life of the Church. Our fiat is essential to this giving over of our flesh to en-flesh the Word in the world today.
And we too do not understand much at all what our choice of saying yes (or no) will mean for us, what it will cost us and what the stakes are for ourselves and for others. Mary did what we are to do. Certainly she did it in a unique way and with a perfection and beauty that we can only admire, but nonetheless, Mary’s life and mission is precisely that of the Christian in the world.
For Catherine, Mary stands as the shining icon of the Christian, the clearest and best picture of what it means to be a follower of Christ. The awesome dignity of it, the mysterious depths of it, the frightening totality of it, the beautiful fruit of it—Mary is the figure who reveals all of this. But she does not reveal it to us simply as an exemplar.
Mary is not just a symbol or pattern of Christian discipleship. She is not merely the sum total of some list of qualities that we are to memorize and imitate. She is not only a beautiful picture that we can admire.
Mary comes to each one of us, personally. Mary ‘takes us on’ individually, teaching us and helping us. Mary is really the spiritual director of the whole human race. She gives us courage when the way is dark, guidance when the way is twisted and confusing, joy when the way is sorrowful. She whispers in our ears, constantly, the word of hope and consolation that we need if we are to persevere in our own fiat. She can do this because she walked every step of this way, knows every inch of it, and knows the glory to which it leads.