MARY, "DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU!"
The angel appeared unto Mary, "And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.” Mary was sore afraid. Wouldn’t you be too? Yet, she mustered up a voice and a few profound words. Mary meekly answered, "Let it be done unto me according to thy word." Those ten short words would go down in history from generation, to generation to help form our Catholic faith and set us apart forever as those who honor the Blessed Mother of God. Mary gave her surrendered, "YES," and accepted God’s mission for her life. Have you? The angel had already affirmed Mary with the words, “Blessed are you among women!"
Mary is our model. Mary listened to God. Mary obeyed God. Her quiet and gentle spirit speaks volumes to us. Her surrendered "YES," taught us how to follow. She is an example to all women on how to live out our vocation as wife and mother. Her yes to God brought life to the world. It brought salvation and it brought joy to the world. She carried the Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in her womb. “Then the word became flesh and dwelt among us."
We, as Catholics, call Mary, “Mother,” because she was the pure and holy vessel that God chose to be His Mommy here on earth. Mary is called Immaculate because she was conceived without sin. As we begin to learn more about, and love our Catholic faith, we not only get to know Jesus; but also the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As we contemplate in prayer the Scriptures, we see the many roles that Mary played during her life on this earth. It is then that we come to realize why Mary was God’s choice.
Mary was a daughter
One day the Lord was dealing with me about my relationship with His mother. It was 1979 and I was in the kitchen when God said to my heart, “You do not love my mother, because you do not love your mother.” The word from my Heavenly Father was spoken clearly and I knew He had read my heart. I immediately repented. This began a journey of healing a wounded heart that only God could lead me on. It was a spiritual surgery only He could perform.
In the spiritual, I sought prayer and wise counsel. In the natural, I made phone calls, bought presents, encouraged, visited, supported and listened to my mom. I learned to know her and to love her. It was a slow but steady journey with the Holy Spirit as my GPS. God was right; as my relationship with my mom grew so did my relationship with His Mother. Now I call Mary, my Mother too. My mom and I are now best friends. She is my daily laugh! My mom will never be a “Mother Teresa” like I had secretly hoped, serving the Lord with gladness and praying me through life’s challenges. Rather my mom is more like Marie on the sit-com, “Everyone loves Raymond.” Accepting her for who she is, and not wanting her to be who she is not, was the key to my healing. There is no perfect earthly mother. I learned that when our earthly mother fails to measure up to our idea of a perfect mother, Mother Mary fills in the gap. She is blessed indeed. God knew how much her children would need a Mother’s love.
Mary was a Mother
When it came to motherhood, I was clueless. Before marriage I did not even like children. I rarely even babysat. In fact, I thought I would never have any children. I had a long way to grow into a mother full of virtue and sacrificial love. I guess you could say, as I was teaching my children character and virtue, Mary and Jesus were teaching me the same. I needed all the grace and wisdom I could get. In our home, when I was a young mother, was a picture of Mary hanging the laundry. It was next to the picture from Family Circle where the house is a total wreck and the caption reads, “I thank you God for my blessings, but I could use a little help around this place too!” By comparing the look on that mother’s face with the look on the Blessed Mother’s face, I was reminded how very human I was. Mary and Jesus, to this day I am convinced, look down from heaven at Ellen Mongan, mother of seven living children, and shake their heads at each other saying, “This truly this is the greatest miracle that we have done in her life. We have given Ellen a Mother’s Heart.” I thankfully agree! Jesus changed me completely with a little help from His Mother.
Mary was a bride
It came easy to me being my husband’s bride. I was in love with him, and even though I had dated a lot of men, I gave my heart to Patrick alone. I knew he was the one. He’s still the one. One of the first things Mary spoke to my heart was, “All I want you to do is be a good wife to my Son Jesus.” “Oh,” I said with a pause. I thought to myself, being a bride to Jesus who I could not see, was a whole lot different than being a bride to Patrick who I could see. I learned to defer, honor, love and respect Patrick, “As unto the Lord,” just like Mary did to her spouse Joseph. In this way I was being Jesus’ bride too. I also learned from the Saints and Mary how to love the Lord thy God with “My whole heart, my whole soul, my whole mind and my whole strength.” I have to say there are days I fail Patrick and Jesus miserably, but isn’t that why we need Jesus in the first place? It is on days like that when the flesh gets the best of me that I thank Jesus for the grace that comes through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I embrace the grace, then pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again. My humility grows, each time I am prompted by the Holy Spirit to be quick to repent and to get to the Sacrament.
Mary built family
Mary, great with child, goes to visit Elizabeth, her cousin. We call that the Visitation and it is the second Joyful Mystery of the rosary. That is true kinship! Close cousins, but it seems above and beyond the call of family duty to me. I have been pregnant ten times and each time I was nauseated almost all of the long nine months. If you do add up all those months of gestation, it ends up being a lot of saltine crackers and Sprite days. If you are a mom, you know what I mean. I never once considered hopping on a “donkey” and setting off for a family reunion. Mary was a trooper, who was able to look beyond her pregnancy to the needs of her newly pregnant older cousin, Elizabeth. Jesus, Mary and Joseph built family at the Wedding Feast of Cana, when Jesus was lost then found in the temple, and even at the Cross. The rosary is a way to picture in our minds a photo album of Jesus’s entire life, from the baby book to the final goodbye.
Mary was a confidant
Mary treasures these things in her heart. Did you ever hear the expression, “Loose lips sink ships!” Mary kept her boat afloat by not saying a word. Mary guarded her heart and held her tongue, only letting words of kindness come forth. I have a long, long way to go in this area of my life, but I’m determined to improve. If you do not have a goal you miss the target every time. Not only is Mary my good example in the area of prudent speech, but so was my mother-in-law. Fran was a great example of women who knew what to say, and what not to say. I used to say to her, “Fran, you are the woman I know that is most like the Blessed Mother.” Then I had to affectionately throw in the words, “For a protestant gal, that is.” It always made Fran laugh. The Blessed Mother Mary and my mother-in-law Fran taught me how to have the law of kindness on my lips. They are the perfect persons to confide in. You see I trust them. Both of them are wise, wonderful and gentle!
Mary was a servant
My life as a mother was changing lots of diapers, cleaning piles of dishes and washing mounds of laundry. Mary’s life was no different. Wait a minute; Mary’s life was totally different. Her motherhood years were way before microwaves, dishwashers, washing machines, clothes dryers, or hair dryers. I guess you could say that we have nothing to complain about as women of these modern times. I know that modern conveniences, carpool mom with lipstick on, or fast food was ever part of Mary’s life. There was nothing fast or convenient in her life. She lived a no-frills life. Mary was a woman who was low on maintenance, but a woman who was high in virtue, in wisdom, in gentleness and in grace. In those areas she was overflowing. Think back to the day of the birth of our Savior. Jesus was born in a stable, yet Mary did not complain. She was probably just glad the donkey ride was over, being nine months pregnant. Even at the Cross she did not utter a negative word! She served God with her words, and with her presence. “At the Cross her station keeping, stood the holy Mother weeping; close to Jesus to the last.” Her face was the first face Jesus beheld as she labored our Savior into the world. Her face was the face Jesus beheld as he breathed His last breath and returned to His Heavenly Father. Mary served Jesus throughout His life. What lessons I have learned from the life of one so holy, Immaculate Mary. We labor to bring our children into the world and then labor to bring them to Christ. This latter labor is the hardest!
Mary was an intercessor
“Holy Mary, Mother God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death Amen.” As a Catholic school girl, I have repeated those words from the Hail Mary prayer more times than I can count. Those words will hopefully never lose their importance in my heart. I will always need the prayers of my Mother Mary. As an adult Catholic I began to make those words my own. I came to understand the importance of the intercession of the Saints. When Mary or the Saints pray for me, they kneel before the throne of God and intercede. Mary has become my intercessor, as I pray the rosary she prays along with me. When I have an urgent prayer need to reach the ears of God, I say a quick novena of nine Memorares in a row, if I do not have nine days to pray a novena. Mother Angelica taught me that. Now I know that God hears me, His child, as soon as I cry out to Him in prayer. There is something comforting about having your mom by your side when you talk to your Father, especially if your Father is God Almighty. Our God is all good, all knowing and all powerful!
Mary was a compassionate friend
When a crisis or cross is presented into my life, I run to the Adoration Chapel. It is where I feel close to God and where I can quiet my soul. It is the place where the Eucharist is exposed: the Body, the Blood, the Soul, and the Divinity of my Savior are present. It is in God’s presence, all alone with my Father, that I get answers and where I get peace. One of the many times I was with My Heavenly Father in prayer, Mary came to comfort me, and oh, if I told you the story you would know that I needed a mother’s love. I knew she understood and that she would be my intercessor. She who had suffered so much knew just what to say and what to do. There is nothing like the compassion of a Mother’s love. It was in the quiet of that adoration chapel that I knew for certain that she truly was my Mother too. I was wailing in prayer, yes there were tears, and cried out from the depth of my soul, “Mary, help me!” Again, I repeated the words in desperation, “Mary, Help me!” Those were the only words I could muster up. You see the cross was heavy, very heavy. What was Mary’s gentle reply? “Ellen, Help me.” I tried to explain, “Mary you do not seem to understand!” I cried out loud, knowing I was the only one in the room, “Mary help me!” I cried out for the third time. I knew she understood that I was devastated by the weight of the cross. A mother knows her child’s heart and Mary knew mine. She replied again, “Ellen, will you help me to tell the world about my Son Jesus.” I was baffled at first yet, somehow I was given the grace to understand. How could I refuse a request so dear to my heart? You see I loved her Son Jesus too. I answered, “Yes.” As Mary comforted me that day, I began to learn how to comfort those God placed in my path. I can comfort with a Mother’s love. I tell them about Jesus. I know that I don’t have all the answers, but I know Jesus does. I tell the world about Mary’s son Jesus, my Savior and my Lord.
Mary knew how to stand at the foot of the cross
Many people were there to wave the palm branches and welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, but, oh so few were waiting and praying just a few days later with the same Jesus at the foot of His Cross. Jesus was facing His toughest hour, His suffering, His crucifixion and His death, but so few came to show their love and support for Him. At His Passion, Jesus was quite alone, except for His friends, John, Mary Magdalene, Mary (His mother’s sister) and His Mother. Isn’t that so the way? When a new baby is born, a couple weds, or one moves into a new home, friends and family come to rejoice and celebrate. When disaster strikes, like Jesus at the Cross, we are almost all alone. Our friends are nowhere to be found. Remember this, Jesus is there, and Mary is too. Also, those who have been taught to stand at the foot of the Cross will be there. Blessed Mother Teresa said, “When you are at the Cross, you are so close to Jesus that you can kiss Him.” Do you want to be close to Jesus? Do not be afraid to stand at the foot of the Cross. You will find that is where the grace is. You will discover that even if you feel you are alone, God is closer to you there at the Cross than ever before. You will be in good company because Mary is always willing to stand at the Cross with one who is suffering. Jesus cries out from the cross, addressing his best friend John, “John, behold your Mother.” Next Jesus, in unbearable pain addresses his Mother, “Mary, Behold your Son.” He says those same words to us today.
Mary always points to Jesus
When I was a young Catholic, I said to women who were mentoring me, “How do you get into Mary?” I thought it was a great question, but her response somehow told me I was off. She said, “Ellen, Mary is not something you get into.” Then she added in a motherly tone, “If you look in my heart, not only does Jesus live there, but Mary lives in my heart too.” This conversation took place in 1976, but it seems as if it took place yesterday. It is etched in my memory for all eternity. This is when I began to search for my Mother, Mary. I somehow felt like half a Catholic without her. But I was to learn through my search that just was not true. The heart is a work of God, not a work of man. We must seek, pray and wait. We must be led by God’s Spirit daily and listen to His still small voice, then do whatever He tells you to do. We must repent when we sin and surrender our hearts to Him. God will, as we yield, do a work in our hearts. We must never rush a work of God. As I was writing this, I began to see how Mary was in my life all along. I just did not see her. Why, I pondered? I did not see Mary because she was never drawing attention to herself. She was always pointing me to Jesus. Mary has taught me so much as a gentle woman, who teaches wisdom and how to love Jesus. Through her words and actions she always leads us to Jesus. From the birth of her Son, to the wedding feast at Cana, to the foot of the Cross, Mary demonstrates a motherly love. No matter what trials life presented to our Blessed Mother, she thought of others ahead of herself. She cared, and she was there for others. Mary always points to Jesus. Mary gives her surrendered, “Yes!” She encourages us to do the same with her words, “Do whatever He tells you!”
Moms, you too have a mission. God has a calling on your life. God has called each one of you to do a work of grace that no one else can do. Do you know your mission? Are you ready, ladies? God says to each of us in the quietness of our soul, "Your mission if you decide to accept it…," wait, that sounds like Mission Impossible. When God sends your guardian angel, in your prayer time you may hear your guardian angel speaking to you. Listen quietly in prayer to that still small voice speaking to your heart. When God tells you what He is calling you to do, don’t be surprised. Your thought may not be, “be it done to me according to thy will,” but rather “this is way too hard Lord." Or, "this is almost impossible, Lord.” Your response will be correct. It is always too hard. That is why it will be a work of God. It will require surrender and leaning on Him alone. Apart from God we can do nothing. However, all things are possible with God. The Holy Spirit leads and guides us into the heart of the Heavenly Father, if we "Be still and know that He is God." Then, "Do whatever He tells you."
Jesus says, "Follow me." The journey is a process made one step at a time by committing, not by perfection. Sometimes we will stumble, Jesus did. Sometimes we will fall. Sometimes we will cry out in desperation, Jesus did, but we will never be alone. Mary and Jesus will always be at our side. They love us too much to leave us!
Are you willing to do whatever Jesus tells you to do?
Copyright 2015 Ellen Mongan
Photos copyright 2015 Ellen Mongan. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Ellen Mongan is a Catholic writer, speaker, and host of WOW MOM podcasts. Her book, WOW MOM: A Walk with God, is on Amazon. She contributes to Catholic Mom, Women of Grace, and Augusta Chronicle. Her most important roles as wife to Deacon Patrick and mother of eight led her to ministry. Learn more and contact her to speak at EllenMongan.com.