I’ve had many different experiences with prayer as a Catholic woman. Sometimes, I’m blessed with moments of incredible intimacy with the Lord where conversation with him comes naturally. But honestly, much more often, I’m left scratching my head and wondering what prayer even is.
Maybe you, too, have experienced something similar. Our lives as women are seasonal, and we’d be remiss to think that those changes don’t impact our interior life, too. For instance, my prayer life as a mother today to two toddlers looks radically different than it did when I was a single woman in college. There are many seasons (this one included!) where I’ve felt like I’m having to go back to the basics in my prayer life, and going back to square one has left me feeling frustrated.
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Recently I read a quote from St. John Damascene, an early Church monk and apologist, that reminded me of the simplicity of prayer that I’d forgotten in my obsession with finding the perfect prayer routine. He described prayer simply as “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God.”
Raising my heart and mind to God seems like something achievable, even in days full of putting my toddlers down for naps and wondering what to make for dinner. When we recognize that prayer is simply placing ourselves in the presence of God, recognizing that he is truly everywhere, we can also recognize that the minutiae of our daily life isn’t a barrier to intimacy with the Lord. In fact, our daily tasks offer countless opportunities to encounter Christ. Whether you’re sitting in a cubicle or changing yet another dirty diaper, Christ is present there.
There isn’t anyone who knows this reality more than the Blessed Mother. Mary’s entire life was a prayer: a raising of her heart and mind to God. For Our Lady, this meant being present to Christ in all seasons and stages of life, from the manger all the way through to the cross and beyond.
Today, Christ is present to us in other ways. We encounter him through Scripture, in the Eucharist, and where two or three are gathered in his name. If you feel like you’re back at square one when it comes to your interior life as a Catholic woman, here are three ways to grow in intimacy with Our Lord through Mary’s example.
Ask the Blessed Mother to help Christ be born in you
Our Lady gives an unconditional “yes” to the conception of Christ in her womb. Her total surrender to the Holy Spirit means that she also says “yes” to everything that will follow: a flight to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod, a quiet hidden life in Nazareth, the swords that will pierce her heart during Jesus’ passion, and ultimately, the joy of the Resurrection.
Mary’s “yes” is an example for all of us here on earth, striving for union with her son through the Church.
“Mary’s faith, according to the Church’s apostolic witness, in some way continues to become the faith of the pilgrim People of God,” Pope St. John Paul II explains in Redemptoris Mater, his encyclical on Our Lady written in 1987. “It is a faith that is passed on simultaneously through both the mind and the heart. It is gained or regained continually through prayer,” he wrote.
As members of the Church today, we can look to Mary’s total surrender as the ideal to aim for in our own lives. “She brought forth Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a Virgin, so that through the Church, Christ may be born and increase in the hearts of the faithful also,” Pope St. John Paul concludes.
What does it look like practically in our lives as Catholic women for Christ to be born in our hearts? It could mean asking Our Lady to reveal parts of our hearts that we have held back from the Lord, and to ask her for help in surrendering everything to him. Or, it could mean growing in intimacy with Our Lady and Christ by praying the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary with the specific intention of Christ coming into your heart and home.
But, as Pope St. John Paul II points out, we can encounter and be inspired by Mary’s maternity especially through the Eucharist. “Her motherhood is particularly noted and experienced by the Christian people at the Sacred Banquet-the liturgical celebration of the mystery of the Redemption-at which Christ, his true body born of the Virgin Mary, becomes present.” Asking Our Lord to be born in your heart could mean inviting Our Lady to accompany you as you receive Christ in the Eucharist at Mass, or ponder her life during time in Eucaristic adoration.
Be obedient in the small things
It’s tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that our to-do lists are what stand between us and time for prayer. Maybe there’s time to sit in silence once the laundry is folded, groceries are put away, and that project at work wraps up. But as Catholic women, we have to keep two things in mind when our daily tasks seem at odds with our interior life.
First, we have to start by ordering our lives around our prayer. Time in conversation with the Lord isn’t a luxury or something for only a few of us who have our lives together. Instead, it’s a necessity for each and every one of us. We can give prayer the priority it deserves by structuring our day around the time we’ll spend in prayer instead of trying to cram it into spare time that we sometimes have or hope that prayer will somehow happen to us.
But we also can encounter the Lord in the reality of our daily lives. He is everywhere: with us in our commutes to work, beside us as we sort through our email inboxes, and together with us in tasks like folding laundry or cooking meals. Those things that must be done today don’t stand in the way of intimacy with the Lord. Instead, they are opportunities to connect with him. Our Lady teaches us the beauty of obedience in all things.
“How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown in Mary in the face of God’s unsearchable judgements,” Pope St. John Paul II wrote in Redemptoris Mater. “How completely she abandons herself to God without reserve, offering the full assent of intellect and will to him whose ‘ways are inscrutable’!”
The next time it seems that you’re too busy for prayer, ask Our Lady to help you make sure that your life is rightly ordered around conversation with her son. But then ask her to come alongside you in the things that must be done that day and offer those tasks up as a prayer to the Lord, too.
Journey with Mary, the pilgrim
Our Lady’s journey with the Lord here on earth was a pilgrimage. The Annunciation includes an invitation to journey to the hill country to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Her pregnancy ends after a long trip to Bethlehem, which is soon followed by the flight into Egypt. We, too, are on constant pilgrimage. This world is not our final resting place, and Chist invites us all to journey home to heaven.
As a church, we journey together toward the final Advent of Christ — his coming at the end of this world. But we don’t journey alone, and we can find comfort in the fact that Our Lady is walking the path ahead of us. “On this journey — and I wish to make this point straight away — she (the Church) proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary, who ‘advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and loyally persevere in her union with the Son unto the cross,’” Pope St. John Paul II wrote.
Follow the example of Our Lady along this pilgrimage, learning from her total surrender, her humility, and her love of Christ. But invite her along on your own journey as well. Together, we can confidently pray the prayer that Mother Teresa used to utter: “Mary, mother of Jesus, be a mother to me now,” and know that she always comes, and she always brings her son with her.