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Mary, you are the Mother of Jesus
and my Mother,
my guide and inspiration.
Although I see your life as extraordinary,
you lived each day as an ordinary person
in your own time and place.
Help me to live my own ordinary life
according to God’s will.
Help me to see God’s will
and the connections between the ordinary and extraordinary
that happen for me each day.
Give me the commitment
to ponder and savor life as you did.
Bless me with insight to recognize
the Spirit’s action in my life
and reflect the Father’s goodness to others.
I ask this in the name of Jesus, your Son.

From RENEW International’s resource The People’s Prayer Book, filled with over 160 prayers for every season and occasion.

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As I checked out my calendar, I discovered that July is blueberry month, hot dog month, and ice cream month. It seems that every day of the month is dedicated to something, for example, sidewalk egg frying day or build a scarecrow day. Every day that is, except July 16.
Yet, July 16 is really a very special day. It is the celebration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the patroness of the Carmelite Order. The Church has long recognized the special relationship between this group and the Blessed Mother, which is represented by the brown scapular Carmelites wear. The scapular has a threefold significance: it is a sign of membership in the order; it is a sign of devotion and trust in the Immaculate Heart of Mary; and it is a sign of a willingness and dedication to live by the example of Mary in her fidelity and dependence on God in everything.
That last sign is one that we should all apply to our own lives. Each day we should examine how deep our faith is becoming in the midst of the craziness of everyday life. We may hesitate to compare ourselves to Mary, as she was sinless. However, Mary was human, and her life was hardly perfect. She was not among the rich and she was not highly educated. She was not famous until the birth of her Son and, in fact, would have been scorned and stoned by society as an unwed mother if it were not for Joseph.
What truly set her apart from the rest of us was her unwavering faith. This was not a faith that depended on success, a faith that would grow only if Mary always got what she wanted and felt as if she were in control of her life. Mary never faltered.
This day in July is dedicated to Mary’s wonderful sense of commitment and fidelity. Just as the Carmelites dedicate their lives to being faithful to their vocation and ask Mary to guard that fidelity, so, too, must we ask Mary to keep us faithful in the midst of our times of doubt and fear.
Oh, most beautiful flower of Mt. Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven,
Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in my
necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me here you are my mother.
O Holy Mary Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and earth, I humbly beg you
from the bottom of my heart to hear my request (add your request).
There are none who can withstand your power.
Holy Mary, I place this prayer in your hands. Amen.
Sister Pat is a member of the RENEW staff, a Dominican Sister, and loves working with Young Adults as the program manager of Theology on Tap.

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Mary is a remarkable woman! I have grown in my affection for her over the years.

When I was in grade school, in the 1950s and 1960s, the May crowning of Mary was always the highlight of the year in my parish. Being a girl, this was especially a big deal for me because girls were excluded from most church activities such as choir and altar serving. But the May crowning procession was different. There, an eighth-grade girl was chosen to crown Mary and was accompanied by four First Communion girls. This was the tradition until my class. My class was told that none of us was worthy of such an honor. Instead, a second-grader would crown Mary. I was devastated!

Because of this, Mary became unreachable, untouchable, and being like her was unattainable. I felt this way for many years until, as a Dominican preacher, I met Mary in a brand new way through Luke’s account of the Annunciation. In praying that passage, I met a woman who was actively engaged in her relationship with God.

Mary was not, in this encounter, silent, passive, or submissive but open, listening, speaking, and questioning. Mary was alert, attentive, interacting, puzzled—alive! Mary was never told “Be quiet,” “Don’t question,” “Just say yes.” Mary was invited to be the Mother of God and was free, as we all are, to say “Yes” or “No.” Mary chose to say “Yes,” not because she knew what it all meant but because she knew she could trust the One who was asking—just as the One who was asking could trust the one being asked.

When we sense God is calling, asking, and inviting, may we be open, engaging, questioning, alive, and graced to trust the One who is asking, because the One who is asking is trusting us.

Anne Scanlan is a member of the RENEW staff, serves on the Why Catholic? team, and is an exceptional liturgist.

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I was doing research on the Internet in connection with my work at RENEW, and I came across the names of actresses who have played Mary, the mother of Jesus, in conventional re-tellings of the Gospel story in the movies or on television.
The names included Ruth Hussey, Olivia Hussey, Dorothy McGuire, Siobhan McKenna, and—the most recent one—Keisha Castle-Hughes. Each of these women brings a slightly different interpretation to the role.
One thing that doesn’t vary in their performances, though, is the dignity with which Mary is portrayed—probably because producers, directors, and actresses realize that hundreds of millions of people hold Mary in high esteem.
It’s a significant, hope-filled thing in the time in which we live that so many people still have a special regard for a woman who lived two thousand years ago, a woman about whom we know so little.
There are several things about Mary that make her the object of such devotion.
One of them is the fact that Mary—alone among ordinary human beings—was conceived in her mother’s womb without original sin.
Another is the fact that Mary was chosen to bear a son who was both human and divine, both man and God, the one foreseen by the prophets, the savior, who would overcome the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve.
These two things were gifts from God, gratuitous gifts—meaning that they were gifts that God did not have to give—not to Mary and not to the world.
Both of these gifts make Mary unique—the only woman of her kind who ever has lived or ever will live on earth.
Another thing that arose from Mary herself helps to account for the influence she continues to have so long after her life on earth: her respect for the will of God.
In the Book of Genesis we read that Eve, the first woman, and her husband, Adam, made their own will paramount to the will of God.
The story has to do with eating the fruit of a certain tree, but the details of the sin are not important. What’s important is that Adam and Eve knew the will of God, but they acted according to their own contrary will—in other words, they made themselves gods.
If we accept that God exists, then we must accept that his will is supreme. At whatever point we act as though our will is supreme, we make ourselves gods. And we human beings do that every day; we do it every time we sin.
By contrast, here is Mary in the gospel story, learning through some mysterious means that she will bear a son through divine intervention, learning something that had to be both frightening and confusing.
But because she understands it to be the will of God, what is Mary’s response?
“Let it be done to me as you say” (Luke 1:38).
This sentence defined Mary’s life on earth; she submitted to the will of God.
It doesn’t make her a weak personality; far from it.
When we consider what she endured—trying to understand her own role in God’s plan, trying to understand her son’s behavior, fearing for her son’s well-being, witnessing her son’s humiliation and death—when we consider what she endured because she accepted God’s will, we know that she was a very strong woman.
Moreover, after the Easter miracle, we find Mary in the company of other women and the apostles as the infant Church begins to take shape in a hostile environment.
So it’s no wonder that thoughtful people in the twenty-first century still honor and love Mary.
They do not see in Mary only God’s unique gifts to her—her immaculate conception and her role as the mother of the savior. They also see in her the model for every person, the model who teaches all of us that the key to everlasting life is contained in her simple response to the will of God: “Let it be done to me as you say.”


Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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