Recently I received an email from Ascension with a short video about the vocational callings of Fr. Mike Schmitz and Fr. Josh Johnson. While their ‘yes’ to God was not quite as straight-forward as the Blessed Mother Mary’s fiat, reflecting on their stories brought a new appreciation for Mary as well as for those who profess religious vows.
The comment that struck me the most was when Fr. Mike indicated that as a youngster, he thought priests were perfect. From the laity’s perspective, I can see how those in religious life appear to have a connection with the divine that ordinary people don’t. I think we hold them to a higher standard, expecting them to be beyond reproach. That’s also why it can be devastating to us when their failings are revealed. Rather than putting them on this pedestal of perfection, we need to remember they made a choice, a commitment to say ‘Yes’ to God for their whole lives and in every part of their lives, including family and career choices. When we are struggling or having doubts about what God is calling us to do, we only need to reach out to our local parish priest for guidance. Priests and religious that minister within communities are wonderful resources for prayer and guidance. They are like us, part of our community, and they understand our struggles to follow the call of God.
Community is what God IS: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Community is also what God wants for us: to be in communion with Him, by being His Body for others and ministering to one another. Participation is what a community does, how it acts. God wanted us to participate in salvation history. He asked Mary to be the vessel in which His Son took flesh to walk among us. While Abraham may have been first to say ‘Yes’ to God, Mary was the first to experience the full communion saying ‘Yes’ brings.
Praying the rosary or just a simple Hail Mary, we invoke the spiritual assistance of a Mother who constantly pleads on our behalf to Her Divine Son. We rejoice in her agreement to participate in God’s will, not just for herself, but for all creation. She is a mentor for all of us, but most especially for priests and religious, who vow their lives in service to God in imitation of her. And for those times when we need to interact on a human level, we can look to those dedicated spiritual sons and daughters of Mary to provide guidance and support in our challenges and struggles.
In thanksgiving to all priests and religious, let us say a Hail Mary or two, lifting them and their struggles up to the Mother who showers grace on all of us as her response.