No-one consoles us as well as a mother does, as every child knows. And for the Christian, none consoles us as perfectly as the Blessed Virgin Mary does. Indeed, one of Her titles, given to Her by the Church, is ‘Our Lady of Consolation’.
Our living of the Christian life is a joy in many ways – but it can also be a great struggle at times. Our Faith does not protect us from struggles and difficulties in life – but it does support us in them and offer them some meaning at the deeper level. Life can be as hard for us as it is for anyone; and harder, in some respects and at particular points.
Such a particular point can be the season of Lent. There is something about this season which can cast a very searching light upon us and upon the life we are leading, so that we are almost compelled to look more closely at ourselves; and for many of us, that is not always easy, because it can make us realise our need to be challenged so that we might grow in some way or other. As Christians, we might call this one of the graces of Lent. We often think of graces as wonderful and particular actions of the Lord in our lives at a given moment – and this is accurate, for they are indeed both wonderful and particular. However, graces are given with an end-result in mind – and it is attaining that end-result which we can find hard, as that is the point where struggle sometimes follows. Graces are intened to do something, to achieve something. And that generally means change in one form or another. Think of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus – it’s a grace on a grand scale but it illustrates the point. What a grace he was granted – and yet it cost him dearly; it made him realise that he was headed in the wrong direction and needed to change course. Thankfully, he did – and the desired result was achieved. Our graces may not be so magnificent nor so grand, but they, too, are designed to bring about some kind of change within ourselves or our lives. Graces challenge us. And it is responding to the challenge that we can then change and grow. But the doing of all this can be hard for us. As human beings, our natural inclination is to resist change – even if on some level we might accept that it is necessary – and to remain where we are. Also as human beings, we are free to resist those graces – the Lord does not compel us; He gave us free will and He always respects the choices we make, even when we choose not to follow His will for us.
This is where Our Blessed Lady comes in.
Remember that She was super-abundantly filled with grace; but this did not mean She had an easy life. If anything, quite the opposite, as the Gospels attest. She co-operated with that divine grace at every step – in other words, She submitted Herself fully and perfectly to the will of God in all things. She never once opposed the will of the Lord, nor the grace given to Her to enable and support Her in doing so. She was, in a sense, like the purest clay – malleable and docile to the hands of the Divine Artist, shaping that clay into something wonderful and beautiful.
The Lord has a plan for every one of us just as He did for the Blessed Virgin. Our plan, of course, is on a much smaller scale, but the broad aim is the same – that we allow ourselves to be formed by the Lord, to be conformed ever more fully and perfectly to His divine will; and it is our correspondence to His divine grace that both allows and achieves this. The life of grace is the action of the Lord within us.
When it is hard to let the grace of God direct us, where our preference is to choose our will over the will of the Lord, that is a very good moment to turn to the Blessed Virgin and to ask Her consolation and assistance in that moment. Mothers have a wonderful way of encouraging their children, of persuading them to do what is asked of them and to do it to the best of their ability; mothers know just what to say and just what to do. So it is with our heavenly Mother.
When moments of difficulty are upon us, when the grace of God illuminates before us a path we might fear to walk, or when we simply need a little motherly encouragement and support, turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and have confidence that She is able to obtain for us from the Lord every grace we need.