“You who are most bountiful, do return great favors for small services.”
– St. Andrew of Crete
Tired and hobbling on an ankle I’d just sprained after falling in our front yard, I dragged my daughters Veronica and Felicity to the voting precinct on a blustery, dreary autumn morning. Veronica, in the throes of toddler-hood, was cranky due to the recent time change, and she was hungry. Felicity was equally tired and leaning on my shoulder as I stood in line for who knew how long.
The weeks had not been kind to me: Sarah’s behavior had steadily declined, and she had yet to be diagnosed by a psychiatrist. My husband Ben’s job grew more and more demanding, and the commute on a dangerous highway had become mentally draining. For me, the fourth pregnancy at an advanced maternal age was not easy. I had to receive frequent progesterone shots, which were painful, and blood tests every three weeks, as well as allergy shots and check-ups with various specialists.
Standing in line, then, I decided I could take no more. In desperation, I prayed to Our Lady, “Please, dear Mother, please help me get through this line without any tantrums or major issues.” Not surprisingly, she prayed for me. It was unusual for me to take Veronica anywhere those days without her erupting into a major meltdown, but she remained calm and fairly content as I meandered through the voting line.
Should it surprise any of us, then, when we ask the Blessed Mother for favors, both great and small? St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote in The Glories of Mary that merely greeting her with, “Hail, Mary” is enough to beckon her to our help for anything we desire. Praying one Hail Mary with sincere devotion is more than enough for her gratuitous favors, lavished upon our lives like spring rain showers.
Here are some lessons we can glean from Our Lady’s overwhelming gratitude to God:
She Is Generous to Us As God Was Generous to Her
“Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1: 30).
There is nothing Mary refuses a soul that is sincere, humble, and approaches her with genuine need. Authentic relationship of any kind requires vulnerability, and when we decide to open our hearts to her, she softens as any mother does, responding to us with whatever we need. Consider moments in your life when you’ve asked a favor of Mary, and she never fails to deliver — often beyond our expectations or even wishes.
Her Gratitude Is Sincere
“Gratitude of itself makes us sincere – or if it does not, then it is not true gratitude.”
– Thomas Merton
“He has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness” (Luke 1: 48).
If one reads the entire Magnificent prayer, it’s clear that Mary was pouring her heart to God in gratitude for the blessings of her life. She had just received word that she was chosen to be the Mother of God, and after she accepted, her heart was flooded with thankfulness, expressed by praising and honoring God, reflecting upon her lowliness, and checking how God’s mercy is adequate to all those who are poor in spirit.
If we desire to imitate her, we must likewise make our lives a continual prayer of praise to God, recalling all of the ways He has blessed us with His incredible mercy and frequently reflecting upon His goodness.
She Is Always Responsive
“Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly becoming aware to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.”
– Thomas Merton
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit gladdens in God my savior” (Luke 1: 46-47).
One who practices grateful living is not glum and does not hang his head and wear a frown every day. Rather, a grateful person is:
- Responsive to others’ needs.
These, and far more, exemplify the life of gratitude that Our Blessed Mother emanated with every fiber of her being. In as much as how we feel, do we greet people with a smile and friendly wave or hello? If so, we are practicing the same gratitude of Our Lady.
She Recognized That Everything Comes From God
“To be grateful is to understand the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything.”
– Thomas Merton
“The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1: 49).
One who grumbles and gripes about every little disappointment is not a person of gratitude. It’s not difficult to get bogged down with the burdens of life; everywhere we turn, there’s some major national disaster or tragedy staring us in the face. We cannot move away from the reality of pain or of the effects of the human condition.
But we can decide to acknowledge that nothing happens in the world, or in our lives, without first going through God’s hands. That truth is hard to accept, because it means we have to wonder why God, who is perfect Love, would permit such horrific and disturbing pain. When we believe with the heart of Mary, we don’t have to have all the answers to our questions. We simply see God for who He is and thank Him for every good gift and big calamity alike.
A grateful heart is one that constantly hopes, searches for what is good, and discoveries the beauty of life.