In honour of Our Lady’s birthday, 8 September.
Being privileged to live at a Marian pilgrimage place and serve in many ways the people who frequent this place is truly a blessing.
Not only have I experienced the personal love and education of the Blessed Mother, but I have also seen how countless numbers of people are drawn to visit the Schoenstatt Shrine at Mulgoa, dedicated to the Mother Thrice Admirable, entrusting their concerns and petitions to Our Lord and the Blessed Mother. Pilgrims, who come weekly in their hundreds, not only bring their requests but also come to say thank you for favours received. What a blessing for them but also for our diocese to have such a place in our midst.
For many years of my life as a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary, I have lived close to this Shrine, being able to visit daily. I have experienced Mary not only as a mother but also as a model to follow and an educator who guides my life’s journey.
From Scriptures, many of us will be challenged by Mary’s loving surrender to God’s will expressed in her Fiat, not only at the Annunciation but also under the Cross. We are moved by her selfless serving when she visited her cousin Elizabeth and by her care and understanding at the Wedding of Cana.
These are facts we know, but when I began to accept Mary into my life and ask her to educate and guide me, I found a whole new dimension to my faith.
From being a teenager who had a close relationship with Christ but a fear of a ‘punishing God’ and little understanding of the role our Mary in the work of salvation, I have experienced how Christ led me to his Mother, and she in her turn has led me back to Christ, to the Holy Spirit and to the Father.
She has allowed me to experience the graces she intercedes for all who come to her in the Shrine: the grace of being at home in God, the grace of transforming our lives into genuine Christian personalities and the grace of being conscious of our mission to bring the Good News of Christ to our world.
To have been able to come to know and experience God as a loving and merciful Father, which I believe is the work and educative influence of Mary, has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.
The Founder of Schoenstatt, Fr Joseph Kentenich, experienced the educative power of Mary in his own life and therefore saw it as his task to lead all who belong to Schoenstatt to the Blessed Mother.
He often said that when he has led those entrusted to him by God to the Blessed Mother, he has fulfilled his task; she will see to it that all find their way home to the heavenly Father. In this sense, she is truly a mother and does what every mother has as a task – to lead the children to know and love their father.
While many who love the Blessed Mother turn to her in times of material need or anxiety, and experience her intercessory power in relieving these needs, I have found that the Blessed Mother, most of all, likes to answer requests to help us become like her in her being and attitude.
When I turn to her and ask her to help me with my impatience, my spontaneous nature or whatever limit or weakness that I have recognised in my life, I have experienced her help.
In everyday situations, in good times and with joyful experiences but equally in tough times and when I experience my limitations and weaknesses, she is always close and somehow nudges me to choose ‘the better part’, to accept and acknowledge my limitations and not let them get me down but rather to reach out anew to follow God’s will as she did.
With God’s grace, I have been able to grow in a personal relationship with Mary and so can turn to her as any child turns to its mother for help and guidance. She has an active part in my everyday life.
Ever since, I have come to know the heavenly Father as a loving merciful God, rather than the ‘policeman’ of my childhood, I have come to understand that God, in His love, gave us his mother, Mary, to be the one who bears and carries His Son into this world.
In a world that has largely turned its back on God, I realise the necessity of Mary once again ‘giving birth’ to Jesus so that through and in Him, the world may find its way back to the Father.
This has been my experience and I pray that all, who turn to Mary, may experience a similar blessing in their life.
Sr Elizabeth Foley ISSM is a Sister of the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary (ISSM).