Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Memory and Mary

Editor's Note: Today we bring you another wonderful piece from Erin Daly. You can follow her on Twitter @ErinD90 and on the web at erinmdaly.com.

I think every Catholic ever has heard that we’re supposed to be like Mary. And with good reason: she’s the highest example we have of what it means to be human, and her virtues are worthy of imitation. Purity. Humility. Radical openness to God’s will. Maybe you’ve seen this list of Mary’s 10 Heroic Virtues. They’re all great virtues, and as somebody who is seeking to deepen her relationship with God and Mary, especially as a woman, I’m trying to imitate them. 

I’ve noticed a tendency of mine, though, that I’m not sure is represented on that list but that I think is very Marian: clinging to memories.

Guess I’m already a bit more like Mary than I thought.

I’m kind of a sentimental person. I’ve been noticing lately that whenever something beautiful happens to me that seems to be from God—an answered prayer, a sensible consolation, a kind gesture or word—I lock it up in my mind and my heart. If I’m smart, I write it down, because heaven knows how prone I am to forgetting things. But even with my fickle memory, those moments in particular stick with me better and in greater detail than anything else. And I replay them over and over to ensure that I don’t forget them, to marvel at God’s action in my life, and to fit them together with other moments to create a bigger picture of how God reveals Himself to me and what He teaches me.

How is this Marian? I’m no scripture or Mary expert, but this tendency of mine makes me think of those places in Luke’s gospel when the evangelist writes that “Mary kept these things…in her heart.” It happens twice, both in chapter 2: the first is when the shepherds visit the Holy Family at Jesus’ birth (2:19), and the second is after Mary and Joseph find the child Jesus in the temple (2:51). The wording is a little different in each verse, but they say the same thing in essence: something happened and Mary kept and pondered that happening in her heart. Why? It’s hard to say. But both instances seem to happen when something about Jesus’ identity is revealed to her. And surely Mary, fully human as she was, didn’t understand those things all at once. It would make sense that she kept them in her memory and came back to them often, considering what they might mean. Or maybe she saw the goodness in them and wanted to hold onto their memory so she could return to them in times of difficulty.

Whatever the reason Mary treasured and pondered those events, I immediately drew comparisons between my heart-pondering and hers when I noticed it in me. And I think it’s a good practice for all Catholics, whenever we witness truly good and blessed things. As sentimental as I am, I think this practice goes beyond mere sentimentality, yearning to go back to the “good old days,” or getting all up in your feels about an event. These moments, these memories, they help us cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving. They make us aware of how God blesses us, and will hopefully lead us to greater gratitude for His gifts. But more than that, their memory can serve to fortify us in trial. When rough times befall us, when dryness and desolation strike, we can cling to those memories of God’s goodness and know that, even if it’s not always apparent, God is always good. Had I thought to store up memories from a previous season of consolation, I may not have been so devastated and frightened when a period of intense dryness and darkness struck. Now I know better, though, and I whenever trial strikes next, I hope I can keep before my eyes the memory of the good things God has done for me. 

Be like Mary. Treasure things. Remember things. Ponder the good things of God deeply and often. Don’t let them go without a second thought. Be thankful for them. You never know when their memory might help you.

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