March 25 is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, when we recall and celebrate the day that the angel announced to Mary that she had been chosen to be the Mother of our Lord (Luke 1:26–38). As I’ve mentioned here before, Marian feasts are ultimately about Jesus, since Mary seeks to draw attention, not to herself, but to her Son, Jesus, who brings us the Good News of rescue, restoration, and reassurance. Mary participates in all three of those realities but most significantly in the area of reassurance. (We refer to Mary as “comforter of the afflicted” in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.) Since the birth of the Church, Christians have looked to Mary for comfort and reassurance, recognizing that Mary—who endured so much—can help to bring us closer to her Son when we need him most.
Young children especially need reassurance as they venture forth into a world that can be frightening at times. Experts tell us that young children experience various degrees of “separation anxiety” as they encounter new people, circumstances, and environments, which is why they often select a “security object”—something that is usually soft and easy to hold that gives them comfort. (Think of Linus and his blanket.) I can think of no better object to give a child a sense of security than a plush Jesus or Mary figure! Loyola Press has developed these beautiful educational resources to help young children grow in their recognition and “felt awareness” of the nearness of God in their everyday lives. The Solemnity of the Annunciation is a perfect opportunity to introduce the Mary, Our Mother Plush Figure and the accompanying activity sheets (in English and Spanish).
Here’s how one DRE, Leah Ramsdell, is using the Mary, Our Mother Plush Figure with the children in her care:
Using the brand new Mary, Our Mother plush [figure] from Loyola Press as well as a slightly modified version of the online printable about a day with Mary, I’ll be sending home six figures with six religious ed families over the next few months. I put each in a small shoe size box along with Mary’s “accessories” (baby Jesus, Hail Mary scroll, water jug, rose) and a pamphlet on praying the Rosary for kids along with a set of rosary beads, as well as the “time with Mary” sheet. In my letter home to families, I encourage them to learn a prayer to Mary, read stories about Mary from the Bible, learn a song about Mary, learn about an image of Mary from a different country/culture, donate time and/or resources to an organization that works with mothers and children, pray the Rosary as a family, etc. The goal is getting families to talk about and learn more about our Blessed Mother!
The angel’s greeting to Mary included words of reassurance: “Do not be afraid!” Mary, in turn, brings us this same reassurance that is part of her Son’s message—a message that is expressed so well in Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”