Three Lessons from Mary, the First and Best Catechist

Mary and the Child Jesus

For any dedicated catechist, having a devotion to the Blessed Mother should be part and parcel of our spiritual lives. Mary, as the first and best catechist, provides a model for our own ministry of catechesis. Three aspects of the life of Mary, drawn from Evangelii Gaudium, serve as a guide for our ministries:

1. Finding God in All Things
2. Pointing to Jesus
3. Seeking Out Help

Finding God in All Things

St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, told the early Jesuits to go out into the world and “find God in all things.” Mary models for us how to find God even in the most overlooked places. In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis reminds us that Mary “is able to recognize the traces of God’s Spirit in events great and small.” (288) In her song, called Mary’s Canticle or the Magnificat, we see her palpable joy as she gives praise, honor, and glory to God. Well aware of her simple and humble state in life, she sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord, / and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, / for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” (Luke 1:46a-48b) God’s love and mercy are inexhaustible and constantly surprising in the newness of every day. Mary teaches us to find God especially in the simple and the humble.

Reflection Questions

  • How do you see God working in your ministry as a catechist?
  • How do you cultivate a faith that is simple and humble of heart?
  • How do you nourish the simple and the humble of heart in your ministry?

Pointing to Jesus

In many of the images that depict Mary, she is seen holding the Child Jesus in her arms with Jesus facing toward us. She holds up her Son so that we can see him. This is our mission as catechists—not to point to ourselves, but to Jesus, who presents himself to each one of us and invites us into relationship with him. Mary points not to herself but to her Son, the one who died for each one of us and seeks to bring all people to his Father. In our ministry, we hold up Jesus for our students so that they can clearly see him.

Reflection Questions

  • How do you point to Jesus in your ministry? Be concrete and specific in your examples.
  • How do you point to Mary in your ministry?
  • How do you hold Jesus and present him to the world?

Seeking Out Help

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis remarks on a very interesting title for Mary. He calls her, “Our Lady of Help, who sets out from her town ‘with haste’ (Luke 1:39) to be of service to others.” (288) Mary is Our Lady of Help in contrast to our culture, which is often one of self-help. Mary’s life is a model for us of how to take our worries, joys, successes, and failures to prayer. We do not internalize them and deal with them by ourselves, but we take them to the Lord, who helps us and then sends us out on mission to help others. Our faith in God fills us up so that we can go out to serve and help others.

Reflection Questions

  • Do I call upon Mary for her intercession and help?
  • How do I help my students to see their faith as a source of help?
  • How do I help my students to see their faith as a way to serve others?

Mary is the first and best of the disciples. We see in her life her obedience to God in her fiat (her “yes”) but also her faithful love for Jesus. She teaches us when it is time to go “in haste” as she did to Elizabeth to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:39). Mary also teaches us to ponder all things in our hearts (Luke 2:19). Mary sets an example for us, showing us what it means to be a disciple and catechist. Invoke her intercession in your ministry, and call upon her often. She knows our struggles, our concerns, and our joys. Share your heart with her!

Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts is rooted in Ignatian spirituality, a practical spirituality for daily life with a 500-year-old tradition.

About Julianne Stanz 80 Articles
Julianne Stanz is the Director of Outreach for Evangelization and Discipleship at Loyola Press and a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Catechesis and Evangelization. She served previously as Director of Discipleship and Leadership Development for the Diocese of Green Bay. Julianne infuses her talks, retreats, and seminars with humor, passion, and insights from her life in Ireland. A popular speaker, storyteller, and author, Julianne is married with three children and spends her time reading, writing, teaching, and collecting beach glass. She is the author of Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church, Developing Disciples of Christ, Braving the Thin Places, and co-author, with Joe Paprocki, of The Catechist’s Backpack.

1 Comment on Three Lessons from Mary, the First and Best Catechist

  1. An excellent article for our catechists. She is a perfect model for our Catholic faith. Mary is most blessed of all humans, a true witness of prayer, which our catechists must be. May she intercede to her Son for all catechists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.