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"Become a living image of Mary" by Kathleen Billings (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2018 Kathleen Billings. All rights reserved.[/caption] While attending a Marian conference in my young twenties, I had a brief encounter with a very holy priest that shaped my vision of what it means, as a woman, to look to Our Blessed Mother as the ideal role model for my life. The priest’s name was Fr. Agnes, and immediately prior to the conference, he had spent the past 10 years of his life in prayerful solitude on an island off the coast of France. Fr. Agnes was the keynote speaker at the conference. I clearly remember listening to him and intensely feeling Christ’s presence. I wanted to meet him, but in those days, I was relatively shy. However, God had a plan for our divine meeting, despite my timidity. After Fr. Agnes spoke, he came down from the stage; and people began to swarm around him, waiting for an opportunity to meet this man who radiated Christ in such a profound way. I was at the far end of the room, crowds of people separating him and me – and yet, clearly moved by the Holy Spirit, Fr. Agnes walked right up to me and asked my name. Rather meekly, I answered him. He proceeded to close his eyes and make the sign of the cross on my forehead as he said, “Kathleen, always be a living image of your loving mother Mary.” Then he just walked away. I stood there dumbfounded. God used Fr. Agnes to speak to me in a big way that day, and those words – “A LIVING IMAGE OF YOUR LOVING MOTHER MARY,” – became etched in my heart and engraved in my soul. I have had over 20 years now to unpack the rich meaning of the words spoken to me during that brief Holy Spirit led encounter. God presented to me, and presents to all women, the perfect model of femininity in Our Blessed Mother, - our “loving Mother Mary.” How could I be a living image of her? Mary – pure, gentle, graceful, simple, humble, loving, quiet, strong, faithful, trusting, self-sacrificing – I worked at it, and continue to do so, one day at a time, one moment at a time, one Hail Mary at a time. My life is a work in progress. My path to holiness is filled with stumbling blocks that test the authenticity of my faith and serve as a barometer of my spiritual depth. I look to my Mother to guide me on the path of holiness. I beg Our Lady to MOLD my heart to MODEL Her heart. St. Louis De Monfort said, “Mary is the mold of Christ.” She continuously leads people to her son.  Being a living image of Mary suggests that my actions and my heart must captivate others and draw them to Christ. When I fall, I remind myself that although Mary was free from sin and I clearly am not – I have a redeemer who forgives and heals and a Mother who sets before me an example to get back up and follow! When my son Dominic died at the early age of 4 months from SIDS, the nursed places his lifeless body in my arms to hold one last time. In that moment, I thought of the Pietá, Our Lady holding Our Savior’s lifeless body in her arms at the foot of the cross. She knew the pain and anguish I was experiencing. My heart felt united in a unique way with Mary’s. My foot of the Cross, the hospital room where I held the deceased body of my son, was also a stepping stone to growing in deeper appreciation of what Our Blessed Mother endured. Mary suffered much. As crosses come my way, I look to Mary so I can imitate Her in how I carry them. When my own earthly mother, whom I was very close with, passed away 3 years ago, I found comfort in knowing that I have a heavenly mother that loves me and continues to mother me. Mary exemplifies for me the opportunity for holiness to be discovered as a wife and mother. The days that feel completely inept as a mother and as a spouse, I remind myself that Mary is also a mother to each of my children and my husband. As I seek to grow in holiness each day, I am grateful for the mission I was given, - to be “a living image of my loving Mother Mary.” It is a mission for all women. Ladies – look to Our Blessed Mother as your model. May the words that were spoken to me – speak to you! Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Copyright 2018 Kathleen M. Billings